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by Joseph Anderson
13 September 2022
In Context: The Programme for Government

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon arrives with Deputy First Minister John Swinney to make a statement on the Programme for Government in the Scottish Parliament

In Context: The Programme for Government

The Scottish Government’s plans for the next parliamentary year include some eye-catching and radical proposals to tackle the cost-of-living crisis; including a rent freeze, a moratorium on rent evictions and an uplift in the Scottish Child Payment.

 

What is the Programme for Government?

Unveiled by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to the Scottish Parliament on September 6, the Programme for Government sets out what the government hopes to achieve over the coming parliamentary year.

This year’s programme is described by its authors as being introduced “against a backdrop of the most severe economic upheaval in a generation, already impacting people, businesses, public services and the third sector across Scotland”.

 

What’s been said about this year’s Programme?

At Holyrood, Sturgeon said: "This Programme for Government is published in the context of the most severe cost crisis in our lifetimes. It is pushing millions into poverty, threatening the viability of businesses and will almost certainly push the UK economy into recession.

"It poses a danger, not just to livelihoods, but to lives. It is a humanitarian emergency. The Scottish Government is already committed to measures, worth almost £3bn this year, that will help with rising costs."

However, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Unfortunately, this programme falls woefully short of rising to the big challenges we face.

 “The Prime Minister has changed, but sadly it’s the same First Minister directing blame elsewhere and seeking grievance with the UK Government.

 “Both governments need to do more to tackle the cost of living crisis. But there's no doubt the SNP are not delivering their side of the deal.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “Today I want to welcome some moves the First Minister has made in the right direction but it is not enough - and we will need to go further as this crisis continues.

“This cannot be just another Programme for Government that goes through the motions of promising change and delivers nothing.”

 

What’s in the Programme?

The headline proposals in the Programme for Government include a moratorium on evictions from both private and rented accommodation over the winter; a rent freeze for private and social tenants until the end of March 2023; a £5-a-week increase in the Scottish Child Payment from November 14; an extension of free school meals to pupils in primaries six and seven; and a freeze in ScotRail fares until at least March 2023.

The Programme includes plans to introduce 18 Bills to the Scottish Parliament over the coming year.

Several of the proposed bills relate to personal finances and the ability of local authorities to raise funds through taxation. Alongside the Annual Budget Bill, which will seek Parliament’s approval for the Government's spending plans, these include the Bankruptcy and Diligence Bill, which will introduce changes to insolvency and debt recovery processes; the Local Visitor Levy Bill, which will give local authorities, particularly those in tourist hotspots, a discretionary power to apply a levy on overnight visitor stays; and the aforementioned Housing Bill, which will freeze rents and impose a moratorium on evictions.

There are also several proposed law reforms, including the Legal Services Regulation Reform Bill, which will seek to improve the accountability and transparency of the legal complaints system; the Criminal Justice Bill, which will abolish the ‘not proven’ verdict in criminal trials, and will also further protect the anonymity of complainers of sexual crimes; and the Trusts and Succession Bill, which will reform the laws on trusts.

The Scottish Government also plans to introduce the Independence Referendum Bill, which will provide for a referendum to be held on Scottish independence, if the UK Supreme Court determines that a referendum is within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament.

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