Ahead of this year’s Programme for Government statement, our Chief Reporter Jack Fawcett gets the jump on what’s likely to be announced.
The Programme for Government is always a hotly-anticipated event, not least because of where it usually comes in the political diary: the first plenary session following the lengthy summer break.
This year, it has been slightly overshadowed by the new Co-operation Agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party, which not only snuck into the PFG’s traditional First Tuesday slot but also confirmed a number of legislative commitments for the next five-year session of Parliament.
We’ve also seen the SNP make use of the First 100 Days playbook, both pre- and post-election to ensure there was a declared plan of action from the get-go and during the period in which negotiations were taking place over the summer.
So tomorrow’s statement will attempt to bring together in a single legislative narrative elements of the co-operation agreement, COVID-recovery, the fallout from Brexit, the climate emergency and a new-look model of Government. It will include legislative measures, commitments to consult and repackaged/delayed Bills.
Here’s the details of what we’re expecting:
Health & Social Care
The Scottish Government has trailed a series of commitments on the NHS, health and social care, including:
- a £2.5bn increase in spending across the NHS
- delivering £50m of a planned £250m to address the drugs death emergency (Angela Constance had previously given a ministerial statement on Tuesday 3 August committing the government to implementing medication assisted treatment standards by April 2022)
- increase inpatient and day case activity by 10% in 2022-23 and outpatient activity by 10% by 2025-26
- introduce a 20% increase in frontline health spending over the parliamentary term
- introduce a draft bill to alter the Gender Reform Act
- introduce legislation in the coming year to establish a National Care Service by the end of the current parliament. Legislation to be based on a rights based, person centred, and user led approach to social care; consistent and fair access; ethical commissioning (fair work, climate change); abolition of non-residential social care charges; national accountability; with national standards to improve outcomes.
- invest £29m to provide an additional 78,000 diagnostic procedures
The SNP-Green draft co-operation agreement and shared policy programme set out not only the areas of policy agreement but also key insights into the legislative priorities of the 2021-26 parliament. Central to the agreement is a commitment to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence, preferably before 2023, and with a hard deadline of 2026. The legislative programme for the next five years includes commitments to:
- Develop a Community Wealth Building Bill to encourage diverse and inclusive local economies, finance, land, and ownership models. The bill will include procurement practices to support local economies, SMEs, micro-businesses and improved access to training and labour markets for disadvantaged communities
- Advance Scotland’s circular economy and the development of policies to achieve this aim, including extended producer responsibility, potential fiscal incentives, and consideration of what requirements may need to be included in a forthcoming Circular Economy Bill
- Bring forward a new Housing Bill in 2022-23 to deliver a New Rented Sector Strategy to increase tenants’ rights, to be published by the end of the year
- Develop a Natural Environment Bill by 2023-24 following a new biodiversity strategy, due to be published in 2022
- Launch a consultation on the options for future agriculture and wider land-use support through a bill (introduced in 2023) to replace the Common Agricultural Policy framework for agriculture and land-use support
- Bring forward a consultation on land reform proposals for inclusion in a Land Reform Bill to be introduced by the end of 2023
- Introduce a Good Food Nation Bill during this parliamentary session to underpin, on a statutory basis, the work that is already being done across the Scottish Government to support the Good Food Nation policy – confirmed by Mairi Gougeon
- Bring forward a Human Rights Bill to give effect to international human rights, including a right to adequate food, as part of the overall right to an adequate standard of living
Other commitments for 2021-22
- Proceed with A96 upgrading in certain targeted areas including Inverness to Nairn (dualling), Nairn, Keith, Elgin and Inverurie (bypassing), Fochabers to Huntly (road safety improvements), Inverurie to Aberdeen (road safety improvements) and the creation of the A96 “electric highway”. A further evidence-based “climate compatibility” review will be commissioned – reporting by the end of 2022.
- Introduce a programme of work to understand energy requirements (by end of 2022) and to inform a policy decision on the contribution of North Sea production to the globally climate emergency and Scotland’s economy security and wellbeing.
- Introduce a requirement on public sector grants to pay at least the real Living Wage to all employees (subject to limits on devolved competence) by summer 2022.
- Provide appropriate channels for effective workers’ voice, such as trade union recognition, by summer 2022.
- Develop and publish a National Strategy for Economic Transformation by late autumn 2021.
- Introduce Scottish Child Payment bridging payments of £520 in 2021 and 2022, paid quarterly for children in receipt of free school meals on the basis of low income.
- Set out a refreshed and refocused set of consolidated mental health commitments in 2022 to reflect the current mental health and wellbeing needs of the people of Scotland. This will include a review and refresh of the Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027.
- Reform the regulatory and planning framework, starting with an independent review to consider the effectiveness and efficiency of the current regime and make recommendations for further work by the end of 2021.
- Begin an immediate programme of work to better protect wildlife and the environment, including a response to the Salmon Interactions Working Group in September 2021, consultation on a spatially adaptive sea lice risk assessment framework for fish farms by the end of the year, and strengthened controls on sea lice, wrasse and fish escapes in the course of 2021-22.
First Minister’s Statement:
Though it predates the co-operation agreement, in a post-election speech the First Minister committed to:
- Deliver £100m to support the development of hydrogen technology over the course of the parliament, and £250m for peatland restoration over the coming decade
- Invest £1.6bn to decarbonise heating and £3.5bn over the next parliament, as well as deliver 110,000 new affordable homes by 2032
- Publish a women’s health plan (already delivered) and provide £50m to establish a Women’s Business Centre and invest the first part of a £100m commitment to specialist domestic and sexual abuse organisations
Perspectives on the PfG:
The Greens have reportedly agreed to most of the forthcoming PfG, including on road-building schemes, but have opt-outs on issues such as aviation and private schools.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives have called for the economic recovery to be the focus of the programme over pursuing an independence referendum and demanded targets to lead the UK in job creation and economic growth. Douglas Ross has called for the Scottish Government to focus on investing in infrastructure projects, supporting businesses and upskilling, a sentiment echoed by Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.
In contrast, Alba has called for the Scottish Government to accelerate plans for a second referendum, beyond the commitments announced in the SNP-Green co-operation agreement.
Calls for an inquiry into the Scottish Government’s handling of COVID may also be prominent. The government has been under pressure from bereaved families organisations to begin the inquiry as soon as possible, and following discussions with the UK Government on the scope of its inquiry, the First Minister has since set out plans for delivering a Scottish inquiry.
The role of the UK Government and the nature of devolved power will too play an influential role in this year’s programme. The 2021 Queen’s Speech set out both plans for improved intergovernmental reforms and greater collaboration between the four nations, with 30 out of 33 new and continuing bills applying either in part or wholly in Scotland.
Finally, the FM has faced significant pressure from over 100 poverty campaigners to double the Scottish Child Payment to £20 per week; Anas Sarwar has also called for the payment to be doubled immediately and again next year ahead of the PfG.
Other bills in progress:
- Carer’s Allowance Supplement (Scotland) Bill
- European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill
- Transvaginal Mesh Removal (Cost Reimbursement) (Scotland) Bill
- UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill
Proposed Member’s bills:
Legislative Consent Memorandums:
- Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill
- Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill
- Environment Bill
- Health and Care Bill
- Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
- Professional Qualifications Bill
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