Scottish Government introduces 16 new bills to parliament
Public sector pay cap lifted as Nicola Sturgeon outlines programme for government
Nicola Sturgeon's programme for government - Parliament TV
Nicola Sturgeon has outlined her programme for government for the next parliamentary year, promising “fresh, bold and ambitious” policies.
Speaking in the Scottish parliament as it reconvenes after the summer recess, the First Minister said the public sector pay cap would be lifted next year, while measures would be taken to cut pollution, especially from vehicles and introduce a deposit return scheme.
An education bill to reform school governance would be the “centrepiece” of the programme, she said, adding closing the gap in attainment between rich and poor children is the government’s “number one priority”.
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“A good education is important for its own sake. It contributes to the health, happiness and fulfilment of all of us as individuals.
“But it is also vital to building a modern, successful, dynamic economy. To succeed, Scotland must lead change, not trail in its wake.
“We must aspire to be the inventor and the manufacturer of the digital, high tech and low carbon innovations that will shape the future, not just a consumer of them.”
Future public sector pay rises will be pegged to the cost of living, while a safe staffing bill for the NHS will ensure “the right staff are in the right places".
A new target will aim to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032, and the budget for active travel such a cycling and walking will be doubled to £80m a year. Low emission zones will be established in every Scottish city. The A9 will be enabled for electric vehicles.
Other proposed bills include the introduction of a deposit return scheme for cans and bottles, raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12 and a pardon for those convicted of historical homosexual offences.
Opposition leaders claimed some of the proposals as their own, while challenging the SNP to go further.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the statement could be described as “something borrowed, something blue,” because so many ideas had come from the Scottish Conservatives, such as a crackdown on drug driving and extension of dementia care known as ‘Frank’s Law’.
But, she warned, "Over-promise and under-deliver is a theme of this government".
Scottish Labour also welcomed aspects of the programme as issues the party had campaigned on, including lifting the public sector pay cap and the establishment of a Scottish investment bank.
Interim leader Alex Rowley said: “There are positive measures in the government’s programme today, but there are still huge challenges facing Scotland that are not addressed.
“We will work with the government where we can, we will hold them to account and we will bring forward the ideas to tackle the big challenges for Scotland.”
Scottish Green leader Patrick Harvie welcomed environmental commitments and a promise to fund research to look at a basic citizen’s income in the face of increased automation in the economy.
However he scoffed at a suggestion from Sturgeon that she would work with other parties on making income tax more progressive.
"On progressive rates of income tax, this is a debate Greens have been leading, and it's frustrating that only now the Scottish Government says it's open to discussion. Greens want to see people on low incomes given a tax cut, while those on high incomes should pay a fairer share for the public services we all benefit from," he said.
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