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by Rebecca McQuillan
03 September 2019
Programme for Government: Focus on climate change, poverty and drugs deaths

Image credit: PA

Programme for Government: Focus on climate change, poverty and drugs deaths

Nicola Sturgeon has used her Programme for Government to reveal a raft of measures to tackle climate change, poverty and drugs deaths.

The First Minister also confirmed her intention to hold a second referendum on independence within the lifetime of this parliament, with opposition leaders claiming it was the “be-all-and-end-all for her nationalist government”.

Describing her Programme for Government for 2019/20 at Holyrood as “an important part of our response to the climate emergency”, the FM announced actions to drive down transport emissions by providing £500m for bus infrastructure, providing more money for consumers and businesses to buy ultra low emission vehicles, turning the Highlands and Islands into the world’s first net zero aviation emission zone by 2040 and decarbonising all flights by the 2040 and trains by 2035.

She also announced plans for a £3bn Green Investment Portfolio, to end gas heating in new homes within five years and to make net zero emissions the mission of the new Scottish National Investment Bank.

Sturgeon also confirmed that during the passage of the Referendums Bill, the Scottish Government will seek the power to hold a referendum on independence in this parliamentary session.

Condemning the Prime Minister’s “anti-democratic move to shut down parliament”, which she called “completely and utterly unacceptable”, she said: “During the passage of the bill, we will seek agreement to the transfer of power that will put the referendum beyond legal challenge.”

She added: “While the Westminster government shuts down, this Scottish Government is stepping up.”

She announced that the new scheduled Scottish Child Payment of £10 a week will start being paid to eligible families with children under six by Christmas 2020 and to all eligible families with children under 16 by 2022., adding that the move had the potential to lift 30,000 children out of poverty.

Other measures included a further £20m over two years for local services and targeted support to tackle drugs deaths and £15m more for additional support for learning.

She named a raft of new bills, including a Heat Networks Bill to regulate district and communal heating networks, a Circular Economy Bill to boost reuse and recycling, legislation to give councils the power to apply a transient visitor levy, a UEFA European Championships Bill, a Good Food Nation Bill to promote healthier and more sustainable local produce, and a Hate Crime Bill to consolidate existing hate crime legislation.

The Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw said: “It’s typical of the First Minister that her statement both began and ended with independence. It really is the be-all-and-end-all for her nationalist government.

“Not only did she confirm her plan to push ahead with an unnecessary and unwanted referendum bill. But we also learned the utterly discredited White Paper from 2014 is finally set to be binned.

“Perhaps, because she discards it altogether, she should apologise to the people of Scotland for the deceit contained within it.

“The people of Scotland have had enough of this. They simply want Nicola Sturgeon to give it a rest.”

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, said the number of young people waiting for more than a year had trebled since last year.

He said: “But it’s not just mental health where the government failings are evident. They’ve got a sick kids’ hospital with no sick kids. An energy company without any energy customers.  West coast ferries with no passengers. Shetland ferries with no funding. School testing with no support. Buses with no passengers, and ScotRail trains with no crew.

“This a government whose eye has been taken off the ball because their primary focus is on independence.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard accused the SNP leader of failing to deliver on promises, highlighting falling Higher pass rates and the number of children and young people waiting more than 18 weeks for mental health treatment.

Patrick Harvie welcomed the pro-environmental polices contained in the PfG.

He said: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all, and a week after we launched our Scottish Green New Deal, it is gratifying to see the First Minister adopt our language.

“I am obviously pleased that, six months after she declared one, the First Minister has recognised that the climate emergency requires more than just ambitious targets, and I welcome the commitment to introduce the Good Food Nation Bill, at last.

“But this programme for government is a cheap imitation of ours. Her version lacks the ambition, scale and courage required of an emergency response.”

Gina Hanrahan, head of policy at WWF Scotland said: “This Programme for Government shows real leadership on the climate emergency, with the kind of ambitious and serious actions needed in response to the climate crisis.  If carried through, these commitments will slash emissions and deliver benefits to people and the Scottish environment now and for years to come.”  

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