Nicola Sturgeon pledges ‘ambitious’ new policies for next 12 months

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Scotland has a “real chance to lead the world” in the low-carbon age, Nicola Sturgeon claimed, as she promised a string of “ambitious” policies for the coming year.

The First Minister said her Scottish Government was looking to build on “radical” initiatives introduced in the last 12 months - including being the first country ever to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Getty Images

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Getty Images

The SNP leader will bring forward 12 bills to the Scottish Parliament in the next 12 months, with details of these to be revealed when Holyrood returns on Tuesday.

And with Britain due to formally leave the European Union on March 29 2019 - something Scots voted against in the referendum - Ms Sturgeon said there had to be a “focus on improving the wealth and wellbeing of communities”.

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Holyrood ministers will also continue to press the UK Government to adopt the “common sense approach” of keeping the UK in the single market and the customs union after Brexit.

Ms Sturgeon will unveil her programme for government for the coming year when MSPs return after the Scottish Parliament’s summer recess.

She said this would “build on the ambitious policies unveiled last year, as well as unveiling a raft of new announcements, and 12 new Bills, which we will progress over the coming months”.

But the First Minister added: “Brexit heightens the importance of everything else we are doing as a Government. The people of Scotland did not vote to leave the European Union, but in this parliamentary year we are set to be taken out of the EU against our will - with continuing uncertainty around our future relationship with the world’s largest trading block, which is around eight times larger than the UK market alone.

“In the face of this uncertainty, we have to intensify our focus on improving the wealth and the wellbeing of communities across Scotland while continuing to argue the case for a common sense approach to Brexit - for continued membership of the single market and customs union.”

In the previous year the Scottish Government has introduced a 50p per unit minimum price for booze - a policy which was initially approved back in 2012 but then saw its implementation delayed by a legal challenge.

Over the last 12 months ministers also announced plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2032, eight years earlier than the UK Government’s target date, and have introduced a “more progressive” income tax system as well as legislation to penalise those guilty of emotional and psychological abuse, Ms Sturgeon said.

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The First Minister stated: “Over the past year we have once again delivered significant improvements for the people of Scotland.

“Last year’s programme for government contained radical and ambitious policies which have been widely praised both in Scotland and beyond our shores. Now is the time to build on those ambitions.”

Scotland is “determined to be an early adopter of electric vehicles” she said, adding this reflected a “commitment to making the transition to a low carbon economy”.

Ms Sturgeon continued: “Our plans are ambitious and far reaching, and will create employment across the country.

“Scotland is a country which in many ways led the world into the industrial revolution - now, we have a real chance to lead the world into the low carbon age.”

The next steps towards establishing a publicly owned Scottish National Investment Bank will be unveiled this week, she promised.

And with the NHS marking the 70th anniversary of its formation, she pledged: “Our aim is to build an NHS that is fit for the changing demands of our aging population - and one that supports good mental as well as physical health.”

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However Scottish Conservative chief whip Maurice Golden said the “tired” SNP administration had “run out of ideas” after more than a decade in power.

The Tory MSP hit out: “Nicola Sturgeon will be desperate to distract attention from the damaging splits in the SNP over Alex Salmond.

“However, the reality is that this is a tired government that has run out of ideas.

“The SNP is failing on education, on the NHS and on the economy. Scotland deserves better.”