Delivering for Today, Investing for Tomorrow

By Reporter, The HighLand Times, Tuesday September 4 2018

FM outlines "a clear vision of the kind of country we want to be."

A major reform of mental health services, investment in infrastructure and legislation to underpin a Scottish National Investment Bank are at the forefront of the Scottish Government's priorities for the year ahead.

The First Minister delivered her Programme for Government during a speech to the Scottish Parliament today (4th September).

It includes details of a £250 million health investment package that will deliver dedicated mental health counsellors in schools, extra training for teachers, and an additional 250 school nurses to offer emotional and mental health support and provide more advice for young people and their families dealing with mental health issues.

It also sets out a national mission to reach the most ambitious long-term level of infrastructure spend ever in Scotland, with a commitment to invest an additional £7 billion - over and above existing plans - on schools, hospitals, transport, digital connectivity and clean energy by 2026.

An Export Growth Plan will see £20 million invested in a range of measures, including support for 150 businesses to increase overseas activity, whilst a new Fair Work plan will see living wage, gender pay transparency and the exclusion of zero hours contracts become conditions for business support.

The First Minister also confirmed that Scotland's Social Security Agency will make the first payments of the Best Start Grant before Christmas, six months ahead of schedule, helping parents on low incomes with £600 on the birth of their first baby and £300 for subsequent children, to buy family essentials.

Headteachers will be given new powers to become key decision makers in their schools and, in partnership with local government, 750 new, extended or refurbished nurseries will be developed to deliver the Scottish Government's commitment to double free childcare hours.

New measures will be put in place to provide better support to victims of serious crimes and, in the Year of Young People, the First Minister committed to enshrine children's rights by incorporating the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into law - going further than the UK government in making children's rights real.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

"Last year's Programme for Government set us on a path to address the big challenges faced by Scotland and developed economies around the world and it presented a clear vision of the kind of country we want to be.

"This Programme for Government flows from that vision and builds on the progress of the last year and indeed the last decade.

"And it ensures that we remain focused on delivering for today and investing for tomorrow.

"It continues and accelerates the major reforms underway in our health, education and justice systems - underpinned by our new progressive system of income tax.

"It seeks to make further progress on tackling inequality and reducing poverty.

"It sets out the next steps in the operation of our new social security system.

"And it builds on our work to support Scotland's economy and encourage innovation.

"As the terms of Brexit become clearer in the months ahead, we will consider and set out our view on how Scotland's interests can best be protected and advanced.

"This Programme for Government will be impacted by Brexit, but it is not defined by it - instead it sets out how we intend to deliver on our vision of a healthier, wealthier and fairer Scotland."

Other measures within the Programme for Government - which includes 12 new pieces of legislation and 13 Bills continuing from the previous legislative session - include:

 

Making the first payments by Scotland's first social security agency

Giving schools more control to lead improvements and make decisions about curriculum, staffing and budgets, backed by £750 million investment through the attainment fund

Publishing an NHS waiting times improvement plan, setting out a range of short- and medium-term actions to substantially and sustainably improve performance across our health service

Improving the experiences of victims and witnesses of crimes, including developing support and advice on homicides and parole process

Providing an advice and support service to ensure EU citizens continue to feel welcome and valued in Scotland

Creating a network of public water refill points, and developing plans to reduce flooding and create more green spaces for people to enjoy.

Completing the devolution of forestry, setting up two new agencies to help our woods and forests thrive, and increasing our yearly targets of planting 10,000 hectares of woodland by a further 50% by 2025

 

 

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