A Fairer, Greener Scotland: Programme for Government 2021-22
7th September 2021
Over the last 18 months, the world, and our own individual places within it, have changed immeasurably. While the pandemic may have defined our lives for those dark and difficult months, the Scottish Government is determined that it does not define our future. This Programme for Government represents an important moment for Scotland to secure a brighter future.
Clearly, Covid‑19 continues to be part of our daily lives. Despite the progress we have made, our position remains fragile: mass vaccination has significantly weakened the link between a concerning increase in new cases, and the serious harm to people's health that poses, but it has not broken that link. That risks people's health, but it also risks putting our health service under further pressure - at a time when many staff have been working flat out for 18 months, and when it is trying to catch up with a backlog of other procedures.
Since the start of the pandemic, "protect the NHS" has been one of our key messages - it is still something that all of us need to bear in mind. We cannot rule anything out in the midst of a pandemic – none of us want to go backwards to even limited restrictions, but nor can we ignore any surge in cases and serious illness.
We must all remain vigilant, play our part, and protect the progress we have made – while retaining our cautious but determined move towards recovery. Our economy is predicted to return to pre‑pandemic levels in the next 12 months. We are preparing for COP26 in Glasgow, where the steps that we must take, in Scotland and around the world, to reach net zero and protect our future, will be centre stage. And we have a unique chance to ensure that prosperity and opportunity are shared across our society by tackling long‑standing challenges in our communities.
That means prioritising the recovery of our precious health and social care services – rebuilding capacity, and establishing a new form of care which people can access in a way, place, and time which works for them. It requires us to redouble efforts to tackle the inequalities that continue to blight our society – eradicating poverty and discrimination, and ensuring opportunity is never limited by economic or social circumstance. And it means securing an economic recovery which is green and fair – for everyone and in every part of Scotland – and delivers our ambition to become a net‑zero nation. Importantly, we will do that built on a new politics, which puts Scotland's future in Scotland's hands.
When the people of Scotland elected this government to a historic fourth consecutive term, we pledged to work across boundaries to build a better nation. The challenges facing Scotland, and the world, have rarely been greater – but too often politics can seem small in response. Now is not the time for petty division or retreating to political comfort zones – that would do a disservice to the sacrifices people have made, and the recovery we need to secure. It is a time for reaching out and finding the best solutions to the toughest of problems, starting with how we cooperate in the Scottish Parliament – not to find the lowest common denominator, but to raise the bar higher.
This Programme for Government embeds the cooperation agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green party – a historic moment for Scotland's politics – as a central part of the Scottish Government's whole programme, while recognising there are areas where we will disagree, doing so openly and transparently.
It is an agreement that recognises the need, and our commitment, to use every tool at our disposal to secure a green economic recovery, investing in restoring our environment and the green technologies and industries of the future to create jobs and build a prosperous Scotland – backed by at least £500 million.
But it is also an agreement which recognises that the best way to secure our long‑term recovery is with the full powers of an independent nation, and the democratic mandate from the people of Scotland to pursue that opportunity. We will take forward a referendum within the term of this Parliament and, if the pandemic permits, in the first half of the Parliament.
As we look to the future, we have laid solid foundations within our first 100 days in government – delivering 80 bold, ambitious and transformative measures that will help to improve the lives of people across Scotland.
We have continued to lead Scotland through the pandemic – easing restrictions, when safe and appropriate, and ensuring every adult has been offered the COVID‑19 vaccine. We have supported our NHS and care services, launching a new NHS Recovery Plan backed by a commitment of more than £1 billion of targeted investment, setting out key actions to address backlogs and increase capacity, and consulting on the creation of the National Care Service.
We have backed our economy and created jobs – setting up a new Green Jobs Workforce Academy and providing £45 million through local partnerships to provide training and employer recruitment incentives, for young people, £25 million to help small and medium businesses access digital technology and enhance their digital skills, £10 million to support local businesses and high streets, and £25 million for the recovery of our tourism sector.
We have helped children, families and young people – funding the recruitment of 1,500 additional teachers and support assistants, introduced free school meals for more primary school children, abolished fees for instrumental tuition and practical subjects, and made up for lost opportunities through a £20 million summer fund. We have also agreed the first allocation of funding to councils for the refurbishment of play parks.
We have taken new steps toward tackling the climate crisis – setting up pilots to test how we will roll out free bikes to school age children who cannot afford them, action which can also improve health outcomes, and moving closer to decarbonising our public transport, as part of a green transport revolution by working to remove the majority of diesel buses from public transport by the end of 2023, and appointing a range of international experts to advise on keeping Scotland at the forefront of tackling the climate emergency and ecological decline.
And we have backed people – introducing legislation to double payments for carers later this year, delivering 40,000 digital devices to low income children and families, tackling the digital divide, and providing £100 as part of the £520 we will give low‑income families this, and every, year ahead of the rollout of Scottish Child Payment to under 16's.
These steps are just the beginning. Across the next year – and this entire Parliament – our programme builds on these immediate actions to ensure continued transformational change to build a fairer country and secure a sustainable recovery.
Leading Scotland safely through the pandemic remains our priority – and as we maintain that resilience against COVID‑19 and other pressures, we will also increase our focus on recovery. We will shortly publish a Covid Recovery Strategy, bringing together the actions we will take across government and with partners in the next year to address the impact of the pandemic on those hardest hit in our country. It will take a focused approach to support for families and households on low incomes, by providing enhanced training and employment support for those furthest from the labour market and setting out how we will support the wellbeing of children and young people, who we know have been significantly affected by the pandemic.
We will drive the recovery of our NHS – not just to its pre‑pandemic level but beyond. This programme commits to record funding levels across our health and social care services, with an increase of at least £2.5 billion by the end of this Parliament – from investment in new and upgraded facilities, and increasing capacity, to reforming the system so everyone gets the treatment they need as quickly as possible, in new and innovative ways, and closer to where they live. And it commits to working quickly to establish the single greatest public service reform since the establishment of the NHS – the creation of a National Care Service – ensuring the voices of those who work in and use the service are at its heart. The legislation for a National Care Service will be introduced this parliamentary year.
As part of this, while the pandemic has exacerbated existing health inequalities and challenges, we know that there are serious wider and indirect challenges we must face up to and tackle – chief among them being ensuring our collective mental wellbeing and addressing the national tragedy of drugs and alcohol related deaths. We will invest £250 million to tackle the drugs death emergency over the course of this Parliament, ensuring better outreach, treatment, rehabilitation, and aftercare services in every local authority, and move quickly to guarantee people access to same‑day treatment and a wider range of treatment options, so they can get help when they feel ready. We will also increase mental health spend, with a specific focus on tackling waiting times and support for children and young people, and making services more local and accessible.
As we renew and recover, we will ensure that we tackle the wider, damaging inequalities in our society, so that everyone can have a brighter future. We will drive forward a national mission to end child poverty – rolling out Scottish Child Payment to children under 16 by the end of 2022 and we will set out, through our spending review, the route to doubling Scottish Child Payment to £20 per week, per child as quickly as possible during this Parliament. We will also continue in our efforts to persuade the UK Government of the importance of retaining the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, the removal of which would impact over 450,000 families in Scotland.
We will ensure that everyone has a safe, warm place to call home – taking forward an ambitious programme of affordable housebuilding, eradicating homelessness and rough sleeping, and strengthening rights for people in the rented sector.
Central to this mission is ensuring that we can live in cleaner and greener homes and communities. We will take forward an ambitious programme of £1.8 billion of investment over the course of this Parliament to make our homes easier and greener to heat – progressing our commitment to decarbonise 1 million homes by 2030, and eradicate poor energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty. We will drive forward our mission to decarbonise public transport and connect our communities – on the mainland and across our islands – and spend at least £320 million, or 10% of the total transport budget, on active travel by 2024‑25, so that it becomes a green, safe and healthy alternative for many more people.
As we rebuild, we are pushing forward with an ambitious 10 year agenda of economic transformation to help seize and realise Scotland's potential. We will work towards an economy that is greener, by investing in the skills, technologies and jobs which will help secure a just transition to net zero; fairer, boosting workers' pay and voices, and directing support to those who may be at greatest risk of poverty or discrimination; and inclusive, ensuring we invest in and support our local communities – across rural and urban Scotland – to shape their futures.
In the year of COP26 – being hosted in our great city of Glasgow – we will rise to the other global challenge we face, taking the necessary action to stem climate change. We will do so in a way which ensures we grasp the opportunities to put a net‑zero Scotland at the heart of our economic prosperity. We will invest in opportunities for people to access new, good and green jobs – including through a £500 million Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray, a £100 million Green Jobs Fund, and £500 million to support the jobs of the future, including upskilling and reskilling people to access those opportunities. We will work to ensure that no one is left behind – establishing a just transition plan for every sector and region, and promoting a net‑zero economy which provides opportunities for all. We will also protect our natural and marine environments for generations to come – reversing ecological decline, and ensuring nature‑based solutions are central to our climate obligations.
While the impacts of the pandemic have been difficult for everyone, we must recognise the particular hardships and burdens placed on children and young people. Not only have they missed out on many of the rites of passage older generations took for granted, they are faced with an uncertain future and the prospect of long‑term scarring in their employment prospects. Across all of our work, we will focus on ensuring young people have a brighter future – where, from day one, they have the support they need to flourish.
We will continue to invest in our Young Person's Guarantee – providing a job, a place in education or training, or a formal volunteering opportunity – which, with investment of £60 million last year and up to £70 million this year, will provide at least 24,000 new and enhanced jobs, skills and training opportunities for young people. We will direct £1 billion towards tackling the poverty related attainment gap, support the recruitment of 3,500 additional teachers and 500 classroom assistants, and take forward an ambitious programme of education reforms to create the very best chances for every young person. We will ensure young people, and their families, don't face cost barriers when it comes to the school meals they can have, the subjects they can choose, or the trips and activities they can participate in. And we will protect and enhance children's rights – with specific support for those with experience of the criminal justice system or at particular risk of harm, giving them access to a "Bairns' Hoose" – and continuing our work to "Keep The Promise", so that young people who experience the care system grow up loved and valued, with the same opportunities as their peers.
This programme establishes our clear priority to support Scotland out of the pandemic, and towards a better future. We have faced significant challenges in the last 18 months – we will still face challenges to come. But out of that great challenge, a better Scotland – playing its part in building a better world – must be our goal.
As we rebuild our society, we will grasp the opportunity to ensure that the sacrifices we have all made will find purpose in the fairer, more just, prosperous, and equal Scotland that we create in response.
Among the actions set out in this Programme for Government, we will:
Establish A Caring Nation: setting out a new vision for health and social care
Increase frontline health spend each year so it is at least £2.5 billion higher by 2026‑27, and increase primary care spend by 25% over the course of this Parliament. We will ensure that facilities support the delivery of world class care and increased capacity by investing £10 billion in heath infrastructure over the next decade, to renew and replace health facilities across Scotland and to deliver our National Treatment Centres.
Undertake the single biggest public service reform since the founding of the NHS – the creation of a National Care Service, following the consultation we launched in our first 100 days. By June 2022, we will bring forward legislation for its establishment.
Improve national wellbeing with increased investment in mental health – at least 25% over this Parliament: This year, we will provide £120 million specifically to support the recovery and transformation of services, with a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention, and full implementation of the National CAMHS Service Specification, clearing historic waiting lists.
Tackle the drugs death emergency with £250 million investment over this Parliament, ensuring better outreach, treatment, rehabilitation, and aftercare services in every local authority: This year we will ensure people have access to same‑day treatment and a wider range of treatment options, and provide a rolling guarantee of £18 million for grassroots organisations to help people in their communities.
Create A Land Of Opportunity: supporting young people and promoting a fairer and more equal society
Drive forward a national mission to end child poverty – rolling out Scottish Child Payment to children under 16 by the end of 2022 and doubling it to £20 per week as quickly as possible thereafter: This year and next – ahead of full rollout – we will provide a £520 'bridging payment' for every child in receipt of free school meals.
Starting this year, invest a further £1 billion over the Parliament to tackle the poverty related attainment gap, and support the recruitment of 3,500 additional teachers and 500 classroom assistants: This will be over and above the 1,400 extra teachers recruited during the pandemic. Starting next year, we will undertake a refresh of the Scottish Attainment Challenge, and continue work to implement the recent OECD recommendations on curriculum and assessment.
Take action to reduce the costs of the school day, and ensure children can access the subjects and opportunities they want regardless of family income: This summer, we have already abolished music, arts and core curriculum charges, and provided funding to expand free school lunches to primary 4 and 5 pupils. Across this Parliament, we will give every child a device and a connection to get online, and ensure every primary and secondary pupil can go on curriculum related trips and residentials.
Build a new system of wraparound childcare for school age children. This year, we will publish a 5‑year delivery plan, undertake an evaluation of pilot projects to inform full implementation, and establish a public panel, including parents, carers, children and young people.
Expand free early learning and childcare to 1 and 2 year olds – starting in this Parliament with children from low-income households.
Starting this year, invest £100 million to support frontline services and focus on prevention of violence against women and girls from school onward.
Secure A Net Zero Nation: ending Scotland's contribution to climate change, restoring nature and enhancing our climate resilience, in a just and fair way
Build a net zero economy that is fair for all, and create opportunities for new, good and green jobs, introducing Just Transition plans for all sectors and regions: We will start with a plan for the energy sector. We have also formally accepted the recent recommendations of the Just Transition Commission, and set out how we will implement these.
Provide at least £1.8 billion over the course of this Parliament to make our homes easier and greener to heat, and progress our commitment to decarbonise 1 million homes by 2030: We will provide increased funding this year for home energy programmes and measures to reduce poor energy efficiency as a driver of fuel poverty, and £30 million for heat and energy efficiency projects in social housing.
Ensure that at least £320 million or 10% of the total transport budget goes on active travel by 2024‑25, ensuring greener, cleaner and better connected communities: Informed by pilots already set up, we will start to provide free bikes to school age children who cannot afford them, make loans and grants available to get old bikes out of storage and back on roads, and develop 'active freeways', connecting city and town centres to outlying neighbourhoods.
Create An Economy That Works For All Of Scotland's People And Places: putting sustainability, wellbeing and fair work at the heart of our economic transformation
Continue to deliver our Young Person's Guarantee – providing a job or a place in education or training, or a formal volunteering opportunity for every young person: Backed by up to £70 million this year, in addition to £60 million last year, this will provide at least 24,000 new and enhanced opportunities for young people, across a range of sectors and projects.
Invest in a just transition to a low-carbon economy, for people and businesses, including a £500 million Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray and a £100 million Green Jobs Fund: This year, we will make the first payments from the Green Jobs Fund, and implement a skills guarantee, helping workers in carbon‑intensive sectors to upskill, reskill, and transition to the green jobs of the future.
Invest an additional £500 million to support the new, good and green jobs of the future, including upskilling and reskilling people to access those: This year, we are providing £20 million for the National Transition Training Fund, helping over 20,000 people to upskill and reskill.
Provide £100 million over this Parliament in a range of programmes to increase the digital capacity and capability of business: Already providing an additional £25 million investment in the DigitalBoost fund providing grants and support to help SMEs get access to the right digital skills and equipment, and continuing to implement the recommendations of Logan review.
Living Better: supporting thriving, resilient and diverse communities
Give everyone a safe, warm place to call home, delivering 110,000 affordable homes across Scotland by 2032, investing an additional £50 million over the Parliament to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping, and strengthening tenants' rights in the rented sector:
This year, we will provide over £12 million to take forward the Ending Homelessness Together action plan, and bring forward consultations on our Rented Sector Strategy and a new Homelessness Prevention Duty. We will also begin work to design and implement an effective national system of rent controls.
Deliver a revolution in children's rights, including across the justice system: Alongside work to #KeepThePromise to care experienced young people, we have started work this year to ensure access to a "Bairns' Hoose" by 2025: a child‑friendly environment providing trauma informed recovery, improving children's experience of the criminal justice system, and preventing them from being re‑traumatised.
Establish Scotland In The World: championing democratic principles, at home and abroad
We intend to secure a referendum on Scottish independence: This will be within the current parliamentary session, on a specific date determined by the Scottish Parliament. If the coronavirus crisis has passed, our intention is for the referendum to be within the first half of the five‑year parliamentary session.
Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP
First Minister of Scotland