What’s in the Programme for Government?

On Tuesday 4 September 2018, the First Minister set out the Programme for Government for the 12 months from September 2018 to August 2019, Delivering for Today, Investing for Tomorrow – The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2018-19.  This is the Scottish Parliament’s equivalent of Westminster’s “Queen’s speech”, which also sets the legislative programme for the year ahead.

The Programme will be debated by the Parliament over the course of this week. As well as detailing the specific bills that will be introduced over the next year, it also sets out a wide range of other policy and financial proposals, based around five themes.

Main proposals in the Programme for Government

Below are some of the major proposals under each main heading in the Programme.

  • Building a Globally Competitive, Sustainable and Inclusive Economy:
    • A proposed increase in infrastructure spending, so that it is £1.5 billion per year higher by 2025-26 than in 2019-20. It is not immediately clear if this is a cash or real terms increase.
    • Legislation to establish a Scottish National Investment Bank, and to establish a new Enterprise Agency in the South of Scotland.
    • Legislation to enact reforms to Non-Domestic Rates, proposed by the Barclay Review.
    • A range of measures to support an increase in exporting by Scottish firms. 
  • A Healthy and Active Nation:
    • Reforms to mental ill-health treatment, with a particular focus on child and adolescent mental health services, and expansion of support for women around giving birth.
    • Continue investment in the health service, including opening new major trauma centres, and a new plan for improving waiting time performance.
    • Creation of “Public Health Scotland”, which is intended to lead work on the Government and local government’s joint public health priorities.
    • Implement “Frank’s Law”, which aims to given people of all age groups eligibility for free personal care.
  • The Best Place to Grow Up and Learn
    • Incorporate the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law.
    • Continue the increase in entitlement to funded early learning and childcare and the reform agenda for education, although not through legislation.
    • A focus on tackling adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
  • An Empowered, Equal and Safe Scotland
    • Continue work to tackle child poverty.
    • Open the new social security agency, make the first devolved social security payments, and publish the Social Security Charter.
    • Work towards legislation on gender recognition for the next legislative programme, which would imply that a bill would be introduced between September 2019 and August 2020. The Fairer Scotland Action Plan aimed to have “arrangements in place by 2020”.
    • Various reforms which aim to improve the experiences of victims of crime.
    • Further legislation on Female Genital Mutilation to strengthen protection for women and girls.
  •  A Creative, Open and Connected Nation
    • Publish a culture strategy and open the new Victoria and Albert Museum in Dundee.
    • Continue to support people fleeing conflict and persecution through the Syrian Refugee Resettlement Programme and develop opportunities for refugees to build their skills and employment options.

Legislative programme

The Programme contains 12 new bills for introduction between September 2018 and August 2019.  Some are detailed above, and this link contains the full list, together with short summaries of each.

In the 2017-18 Programme for Government, the Government proposed 16 Bills.  Fifteen of the proposed bills were introduced as planned, although most are still going through the parliamentary process.  Only the Education Bill was not introduced, as set out in the Deputy First Minister’s statement to Parliament in June.

Constitution and Brexit

As the First Minister said in her statement, all of the policies and proposals outlined in the Programme take place “in the shadow of Brexit.”  She stated that the Government will “continue to make the case for EU Membership” and “short of that, we will press the UK Government to remain in the single market and customs union”.

In terms of specific Brexit-related pieces of legislation, the Programme includes an Electoral Franchise Bill and an Electoral Reform Bill. These are designed to ensure that EU citizens who live in Scotland can continue to vote in Scottish Parliament and local government elections.  The First Minister also announced that the Scottish Government will pay the “settled status fees” for EU citizens who work in devolved public services.

Finally, the Scottish Government dealt with the prospect of a further referendum on independence.  The Programme states:

At the end of the period of negotiation with the EU, and when the terms of Brexit are clearer, we will set out our judgment on the best way forward for Scotland at that time, including our view on the precise timescale for offering people a choice over the country’s future.

Allan Campbell, Head of Financial Scrutiny Unit, SPICe