Leader comment: Bold programme gets SNP back to day job

'˜Get on with the day job' has been the cry of Scotland's opposition parties, as the SNP persisted with its pursuit of independence until the wheels fell off the bandwagon at the general election.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announces her Scottish Government's legislative programme for the coming year.

Yesterday, we witnessed the first credible evidence that the Scottish Government is taking that advice, as the First Minister delivered a 40-minute summary of her ambitious 16-bill Programme for Government with only a single passing reference to the “i” word.

Of course, she had to. The Nationalists’ popularity has been on the wane, and after ten years in power, sticking to the same old script would have been a mistake.

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But while self-interest figures – it’s politics, after all – the proposals put forward represent a bold and imaginative agenda, whether or not you agree with the direction aimed for.

There are controversial proposals, such as using tax raising powers and phasing our petrol and diesel cars by 2032, but there are also measures which will be widely welcomed, such as extending care funding to those with dementia under the age of 65 – Frank’s Law – and introducing a deposit return scheme for bottles and cans. Support for a ban on smacking and a pardon for anyone convicted of homosexual offences in the past are also commendable commitments.

There are several eye-catching measures in the package, and while some were expected, the switch to electric cars eight years ahead of the UK government’s target was the stand-out. Whether this is practical or the timetable is achievable is open to doubt, but the Scottish Government deserves credit for aiming high. Why should we not try to reach our destination at the earliest opportunity?

Inevitably, the area where Nicola Sturgeon will have to tread most carefully is on taxation. Any reassessment should not target a single section of society, dissuading high earners from investing or continuing to stay here. Lessons have to be learned from the introduction of Land and Buildings Transaction Tax, where pursuit of a higher take has effectively stalled the market.

But as an overall package, the programme involves both short-term quick fixes and a longer-term vision of where Scotland could be in ten or 15 years’ time. And if she can deliver, Ms Sturgeon might find this stands her a better chance of persuading the unconvinced on the “i” word than pushing a leap-of-faith alternative to a calamitous Brexit.