First Minister Publishes First Programme for Government
Plans to reduce poverty, deliver economic growth, tackle climate change and provide high quality public services will be central to First Minister Humza Yousaf’s first Programme for Government, which will be published this week.
In a statement to the Scottish Parliament today, First Minister Humza Yousaf will outline how his government will make key anti-poverty and pro-growth investments to help deliver three national missions – equality, opportunity and community – that collectively will help build a better, greener and more prosperous Scotland.
The 2023-24 Programme for Government will detail how the Scottish Government will build upon key partnerships – including the Verity House agreement with local authorities and the New Deal for Business – to deliver a wellbeing economy that boosts economic growth to provide high-quality public services, and has well-paid and fair jobs at its heart.
Speaking ahead of Tuesday’s publication his Programme, Humza Yousaf said that, with this approach, Scotland can unleash entrepreneurial talent and generate new investment that helps deliver targeted measures to lift families and communities out of poverty.
The Programme for Government will set Scotland on a path towards tackling some of the big issues facing the country, building on the progress already made by the Scottish Government in recent years. Here are just some of the SNP’s achievements in government:
On Finance, Taxation & Public Sector Pay
The SNP is delivering a new progressive income tax system, while the Labour Party have ditched their pledge to increase income tax for top earners and followed the Tories in ruling out a wealth tax. Scotland’s system ensures the majority (52%) of Scottish taxpayers pay less than elsewhere in the UK in 2023-24, while raising vital revenue to support additional investment in our public services.
Every Scottish household also benefits from cheaper council tax bills, with the average 2023-24 Band D charge in Scotland £648 less than in England, and £463 less than in Wales. The SNP government also abolished non-domestic rates for over 100,000 premises – saving small businesses around £2.7bn since 2008. Productivity here is also outperforming the UK as a whole – growing 10.3% in Scotland since 2007, compared to growth of 2.9% in the UK.
The SNP has also put in place a public sector pay policy that supports people on the lowest incomes and protects jobs, with better starting salaries for nurses, doctors, police officers and teachers alike. At the same time, public sector workers are being completely abandoned by Westminster parties – with both Labour and the Tories in refusing to back recommended public sector pay rises.
On NHS Recovery, Health & Social Care
Scotland has seen record high health health funding under the SNP, with over £19 billion invested in our health and care portfolio and resource funding up by over 60%. NHS staffing is at a record high, free personal and nursing care has been extended to all and the world-leading policy of minimum unit alcohol pricing is saving lives. Scotland also has the highest per-person number of GPs and nurses in the UK, and the best performing core A&E services.
Prescription charges have long been abolished by the SNP, and more recently NHS dental care has been made free for under-26s – ahead of making this universal. The SNP Government brought a stop to the commercialisation and privatisation of GP services that had been permitted by the previous Labour-led administration, while Labour has learned nothing from the toxic legacy of PFI and wants to keep open the Tory door to increased private sector input in our precious NHS.
Scotland also remains the only country in the UK to have been successful in averting NHS strikes, agreeing the best pay deals in the UK of of 7.5-11%. While the SNP Scottish Government has avoided strikes through negotiating and keeping NHS services running, the Tories have run services into the ground in England, while the Labour-run government in Wales are failing to deliver fair pay settlements and are facing a junior doctor’s strike.
On Education & Skills
The SNP in government has delivered 117 new or refurbished schools through the £1.8 billion Schools for the Future programme, and 1,053 school building projects – reducing the number of pupils being educated in unsatisfactory school buildings by 77%. It made and has kept university tuition free, and has supported student progression more widely – with recent statistics showing that a record 95.7% of those finishing school in the 2021-22 academic year were progressing their studies or careers within three months of the end of the school year.
This has been backed by the Scottish Attainment Challenge, with £1billion invested over the course of this Parliament – a substantial increase on last term’s £750 million – to support our most disadvantaged children and young people. A wealth of other initiatives are supporting care-experienced young people as well as young carers, neurodivergent students, LGBTQ+ youth and asylum seekers, while all P1-5 pupils receive free school meals.
Spending per child on education in Scotland is higher than in any other UK Nation. Scotland has more teachers per pupil than any other country in the UK as well as the highest ELC average funding rates, and has the best educated population in Europe according to Eurostat figures. The Scottish Government additionally provides the best package of support for university students in the UK, which translates to significantly lower levels of student debt – 67% less than students in England in 2022. At the same time, Labour’s U-turn on tuition will cost graduates in England an average of £21,000 each in lifetime loan repayments, with their U-turn on free school meals set to cost families £400million.
On Transport, Energy & a Wellbeing Economy
Almost two million Scots enjoy free bus travel across the country – including over-60s, people with disabilities, and young people under the age of 22 – and the Scottish Government has brought Scotland’s railway into public hands to deliver a better, fairer service for passengers – investing over £9 billion in Scotland’s rail infrastructure.
The SNP Scottish Government was the first in the world to declare a climate emergency and continues to take real climate action – such as 80% of all the UK’s tree planting, generating a record amount of renewable electricity, allocating £1 billion to tackling fuel poverty and improving energy efficiency, and working towards the most ambitious emissions reduction targets and a Just Transition. The Scottish Government will not do to the north-east what Thatcher and the Tory Party did to mining and steel-working communities right across Scotland.
The SNP Government is working hard to attract investment into Scotland and seize the opportunities of our vast natural resources, while supporting our communities and ensuring Scottish taxpayers get the best value for money. The Scottish Government was the first government in the UK to become an accredited Living Wage employer – and Scotland is outperforming the UK in the number of Living Wage accredited employers. Youth unemployment was also reduced by 40% in Scotland – four years ahead of our 2021 target, in 2017.
Rural Affairs & Land Reform
Scotland’s food and drink industry is booming, accounting for the largest share of food and drink exports in the UK. The Scottish Government has launched a strategy for Scotland’s food and drink industry, which aims for a 25% increase in turnover for Scotland’s food and drink sector by 2028. The SNP Government is continuing to support food production in this country, unlike other parts of the UK. That is one of the central pillars of its vision for agriculture in which it committed to supporting food production, while looking to tackle the climate and nature emergencies.
£9 million has also been committed to a Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund to support jobs and make the tourism sector in our rural communities more resilient. The Scottish Land Fund has further helped over 230 communities across Scotland to purchase land, and the Scottish Government is doubling the fund to £20 million by the end of this Parliament. This is set against a catalogue of UK Government failures, however, to protect the interests of Scottish farmers.
Justice & Social Justice
Scotland is a safer place since this SNP Government took office, with recorded crime at one of the lowest levels seen since 1974 – down 42% since 2006-07. Police Scotland have been provided with additional resource funding of £80m in 2023-24, a 6.3% increase compared to 2022-23, meaning more police per head and more spending per person than in England and Wales. Scotland has a higher number of police officers than at any time between 1999 and 2007, and more than £24m has been invested in violence prevention since 2007. Since 2008, £130m from the proceeds of crime has been committed to supporting community projects for young people across Scotland through the Cashback for Communities Programme, and the world leading Domestic Abuse Act makes psychological domestic abuse and controlling behaviour a crime.
Where social justice is concerned, the SNP in government is tackling poverty and inequality through the game-changing Scottish Child Payment and the fairer devolved social security system more widely, with an annual £3 billion of investment in Scotland’s lowest-income households. It continues to mitigate cruel UK Government welfare policies – like the bedroom tax and benefit cap – with £84 million this year in Discretionary Housing Payments. A lifeline for those struggling is offered by the Scottish Welfare Fund, worth £41 million in 2023-24, while free childcare to all three- and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds is saving families £5,000 per eligible child per year.
The SNP is investing £100 million to transform the homelessness system and implement the updated Ending Homelessness Together action plan, and has protected tenants and our most vulnerable households during the cost of living crisis through the emergency rent cap and evictions ban. All of this adds up to lower child poverty than in the UK as a whole, while the annual average supply of affordable housing per head of population in Scotland has also been the highest in the UK.
A Constant Struggle Against Westminster Polices
Unfortunately, all the progress the SNP is making in Scotland continues to be both held back and indeed threatened by Westminster pulling very much in the other direction. People across Scotland paying a steep price for economic incompetence, austerity and Brexit caused by successive UK governments. Over the last year, Westminster has shown it is incapable of delivering the real and lasting change that is required for Scotland.
It is undeniable that Brexit, which all main Westminster parties are now signed up for, is fuelling the cost-of-living crisis and has had a significant impact on recruitment of health and social care staff. As a country, we need to find a way of ensuring that we have an immigration system that is not just humane but meets our social and economic needs. It is clear—and it is becoming clearer every day—that Scotland will not find either of those things as part of the Westminster system of government.
Our whole health and social care system has also been hit, of course, by the Tory-created cost crisis. The UK Government’s complete mismanagement of public finances and the economy has created a public health emergency. The Conservative led UK Government are the architects of the current cost of living crisis, and yet refuse to take any responsibility for the disastrous consequences on health or indeed on education, children and young people. The Conservatives have pursued a policy of austerity that has stripped education funding bare, showing they cannot be trusted to invest in our children and young people. Analysis shows that 70,000 people in Scotland, including 30,000 children, would be lifted out of poverty by 2024 if UK Government welfare reforms introduced since 2015 were reversed.
And on Net Zero, we need to see action and much higher ambition from the Tories on the solutions that are currently reserved to Westminster. Scotland deserves better than this broken Brexit Britain and a hard-right government it did not vote for – and which Labour increasingly looks like a pale imitation of. The route to this is through Scotland becoming an independent country, but until such a time the SNP in government in Scotland will continue to do its utmost for the people of this country.