Nicola Sturgeon’s Programme for Government - everything you need to know

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The First Minister unveiled 12 new bills and plans to invest an additional £7 billion in services in her ambitious Programme for Government.

We examine the new plans and what the proposed laws may do for Scotland.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon answers questions during first minister's questions in the Scottish Parliament.(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon answers questions during first minister's questions in the Scottish Parliament.(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The Scottish Government’s 12 new bills

Biometric Data Bill: Will establish provision for a statutory code of practice covering acquisition, use, retention and disposal of biometric data such as fingerprints, DNA and facial images.

Budget Bill: Sets out the government’s tax and spending plans.

Census (Amendment) Bill: Will allow National Records of Scotland to ask voluntary questions on sexual orientation and transgender status/history from the 2021 census onwards.

What will a no-deal after Brexit negotiations mean for Scotland and the rest UK? Picture: TSPL

What will a no-deal after Brexit negotiations mean for Scotland and the rest UK? Picture: TSPL

Consumer Protection Bill: Will establish a new statutory consumer body.

Disclosure Bill: Will make changes to existing laws to support reforms to the disclosure system. It follows criticism of the system when allegations of child abuse in football emerged.

Electoral Franchise Bill: Aimed at protecting EU citizens’ rights to vote in Scottish Parliament and local government elections.

Electoral Reform Bill: Will implement a range of electoral reforms.

Family Law Bill: Will make changes to family law, in particular to ensure a child’s best interests are at the centre of contact and residence cases.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Bill: Aimed a strengthening existing laws on FGM. The Bill will seek to introduce protection orders for women and girls at risk and put guidance for professionals.

Non-Domestic Rates Bill: Will implement the recommendations of the Barclay Review. The Bill will include measures aimed at improving the administration of the system, reform of a number of rates reliefs and measures to tackle avoidance.

Scottish National Investment Bank Bill: Will pave the way for a Scottish National Investment Bank.

South of Scotland Enterprise Agency Bill: Will establish the new agency in the South of Scotland.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: We are building ‘healthier and wealthier Scotland’


INDEPENDENCE


The First Minister again made it clear that she will set out her plans on the prospect of another referendum in the months ahead.

“We will continue to make the case for EU membership,” she told MSPs.

“Short of that, we will press the UK government to remain in the single market and the customs union. 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.”

But the First Minister also highlighted a new poll at the weekend that indicated a majority of Scots would back independence after Brexit. “It is clear an increasing number of our fellow citizens believe, as we do, that the best future for Scotland lies in becoming an independent country,” she said.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Support for Scottish independence is increasing

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BREXIT

New measures to support EU citizens living in Scotland after Brexit have been announced. A new Electoral Franchise Bill will also be introduced to ensure EU citizens who live in Scotland can continue to vote in Holyrood and council elections.

Plans to protect EU citizens already living in Scotland will see the Scottish Government cover a £65 “settled status” fee post-Brexit, which has already been hinted at by Westminster.

“It is simply wrong that people already making a contribution to our country should pay to retain rights they currently have to live and work here,” Ms Sturgeon said.

Ministers at Holyrood will also continue to make the “positive case” for immigration because of its importance to Scotland.


READ MORE: Poll: Tories would lose Scotland seat gains in snap Brexit vote

ECONOMY

A Scottish National Investment Bank Bill will pave the way for a Scottish National Investment Bank while a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency Bill will establish an economic agency in the borders.

A total of £7 billion has been earmarked for schools, hospitals, transport, digital connectivity and clean energy by 2026.

Also announced was a Non-Domestic Rates Bill to implement the remaining recommendations from the Barclay Review on business rates, including a move to a three year valuation cycle.

Further plans are for a national retraining partnership to help workers and businesses prepare for future challenges as Brexit approaches.

MENTAL HEALTH

A £250 million investment package in mental health services was the major announcement by Ms Sturgeon.

Ministers have faced criticism in recent years as waits for counselling, particularly among young Scots, have soared.

The plans unveiled marked a sea change in ministers’ approach and will provide £60m in schools in the year ahead to support 350 counsellors and 250 additional school nurses.

The move will ensure every school has a counselling service and mental health support and provide more advice for young people and their families dealing with mental health issues.

Plans were also unveiled to fast-track young people with the most serious mental health illness into specialist services.

ENVIRONMENT



A Scottish National Investment Bank Bill will pave the way for a Scottish National Investment Bank while a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency Bill will establish an economic agency in the borders.

A total of £7 billion has been earmarked for schools, hospitals, transport, digital connectivity and clean energy by 2026.

Also announced was a Non-Domestic Rates Bill to implement the remaining recommendations from the Barclay Review on business rates, including a move to a three year valuation cycle.

Further plans are for a national retraining partnership to help workers and businesses prepare for future challenges as Brexit approaches.

AIRBNB


In her Programme for Government speech, Nicola Sturgeon signalled that the Scottish Government would crack down on short term lets such as Airbnb.

The move follows concern in places like Edinburgh that the prevalence of short term lets is upsetting the balance of city communities.

Green MSP Andy Wightman has been campaigning for action to be taken.

The First Minister said: “We will also work with local government, communities and businesses on short term lets. We want to ensure that councils have the appropriate powers to balance the needs of their communities with wider economic interests.”

SMACKING


Ministers paved the way for a ban on parents smacking their children in Scotland by announcing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child will be incorporated into “domestic law” in Scotland.

Green MSP John Finnie will this week launch a bill aimed at banning smacking in Scotland by ending the defence of “reasonable chastisement” in Scots law, which allow parents to smack youngsters.

Campaigners in Scotland have already vowed to oppose the move, insisting it could “criminalise” thousands of loving parents across the country. The United Nations is clear that legal provisions allowing any level of violent punishment of children are not compatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.



POLICE DOGS

The Programme for Government included a commitment to introduce a new criminal offence of harming or killing a service animal, including police dogs.

The legislation – known as Finn’s Law – will be introduced by the end of this parliament. Finn’s Law will be introduced in Scotland by the end of this Parliament, the SNP has confirmed in the Programme for Government today.

The legislation is named after a stabbed police dog, whose bravery has been hailed by campaigners for the law. Finn’s handler PC Dave Wardell, from Hertfordshire, said the dog – who survived and is now retired – saved his life when a robbery suspect they were pursuing turned on them with a knife in 2016. Finn was stabbed in the chest and head but did not let go until reinforcements arrived.

SOCIAL SECURITY



A new welfare payment aimed at helping low income families in Scotland will be introduced six months ahead of schedule. The Best Start Grant, which replaces the Sure Start Maternity Grant north of the Border, is one of 11 benefits being devolved.

Around 50,000 families each year when it is introduced before Christmas. Low income parents will receive £600 on the birth of a first child and £300 on the birth of subsequent children. Families will receive £250 for each child when they start nursery and the same again when they start school.

First payments of new Carers’ Allowance start next week and the Funeral Expense Assistant Grant begins next summer and the new Young Carer Grant from autumn 2019.



JUSTICE



A range of reforms to help protect victims in the criminal justice system in Scotland was unveiled by the First Minister. The need for victims to “retell” their story to different organisations is to be tackled, with a view to “eliminating” this scenario. They will also be allowed to make “impact statements” in a wider range of court cases to explain how they have been affected.

Changes will also be made to improve information available to victims and families when prisoners are released, with a consultation to be launched into the transparency of the parole system.

A £2 million package of support for victims of sexual assault and rape was also unveiled to speed up access to support for those affected, with £1.5m to be spent on Rape Crisis centres.