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Briefing: Scottish Government’s Programme for Government, 2023-24


  • Humza Yousaf unveiled his first Programme for Government, setting out the Scottish Government’s legislative plans for the year ahead.
  • Branded ‘Equality, Opportunity, Community’, his three national missions, the First Minister’s vision sought to marry measures to alleviate poverty alongside pursuing a pro-growth agenda. With both the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour recently launching an economic prospectus, the First Minister was keen to show that he was on the side of business.
  • It contained 13 new Bills – along with the customary yearly Budget Bill – and a range of new spending commitments. Headline measures included the expansion of childcare support and free school meals in primary schools, as well increased pay for social care workers.
  • The First Minister promised to implement all the recommendations of the New Deal for Business Group and pledged to work with the UK Government to support economic growth. He also announced plans to speed up renewable energy projects with a new deal for the onshore wind industry and a new £15m package to unleash entrepreneurialism.
  • The Programme for Government also includes a number of Bills, consultations, and regulations which will be taken forward later in the parliamentary session.

Bills for 2023-24

Agriculture Bill Budget (No. 3) Bill
Cladding Remediation Bill Education Bill
Electoral Reform Bill Gender Representation on Public Boards Remedial Action Bill
Housing Bill Human Rights Bill
Judicial Factors Bill Land Reform Bill
Misogyny Bill Scottish Aggregates Tax Bill
Scottish Languages Bill Social Security (Amendment) Bill

In addition to the Bills listed above:

  • The Scottish Government will support Gillian Mackay MSP to introduce her proposed Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) (Scotland) Bill.
  • They also intend to bring back the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill for Reconsideration Stage, and support Mark Ruskell MSP in doing the same for the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill.
  • The Scottish Government will also continue to develop other proposals for legislative change, including in relation to Heat in Buildings and Ending Conversion Practices.

Relevant Measures

Tourism Sector

  • In his speech, the First Minister stated “we will continue to support Scotland’s thriving tourism sector and to promote major events” but the Programme for Government contained no new measures to relieve the regulatory burden on short-term lets.
  • The Leader of the Scottish Conservatives challenged the First Minister on STLs, noting his appearance at the rally outside Holyrood, and argued licensing was “going to wreak havoc around the tourism industry in Scotland.”

New Deal for Business

  • The First Minister promised to implement all the recommendations of the New Deal for Business Group, including on the development and implementation of regulation.
  • They will also work with business to develop a process for identifying, considering and if appropriate removing regulations no longer required.
  • Business representatives and other stakeholders will be brought together to advise on the successful implementation of new regulations through the Regulatory Review Group and ensure the consistent and effective use of the Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment, with businesses engaged from the earliest stage of policy development.
  • Build on the work of the New Deal for Business Group in relation to Non-Domestic Rates and invite the views of members on priorities, alongside the considerations of the Tax Advisory Group, to inform decisions in the Budget.
  • Establish a new Small Business Unit to ensure that the interests of small businesses are always considered.

Second Homes / Business Rates

  • Following consultation, the Scottish Government will enable councils to apply a premium on council tax rates for second homes, described by the First Minister “a demonstration of our desire to empower local government.”
  • The Programme for Government document notes they will “take initial steps to increase the levers available to councils by delivering secondary legislation – enabling councils to apply up to a 100% premium on Council Tax rates for second homes, and continue to discuss other options with Local Government based on the analysis of responses.”
  • The Scottish Government state they will “continue to deliver a fair and affordable Non-Domestic Rates package in the Budget”, taking account of the engagement with businesses, through the New Deal for Business, and with Local Government.

Housing Bill

  • The Scottish Government will publish a Housing Bill to introduce long-term rent controls and new tenant rights, and to establish new duties for the prevention of homelessness.
  • On housing in general, the Scottish Government will invest £750m to support the delivery of affordable homes to meet its target of securing 110,000 affordable homes by 2032.
  • The First Minister also mentioned the establishment of a £25m fund to provide homes for key workers in rural areas.

Visitor Levy

  • The Programme for Government document notes that the Scottish Government will continue to progress the Visitor Levy Bill.


  • The Programme for Government states £443,000 has been provided to Scottish Enterprise to establish a new Agritourism Monitor Farm Programme over 2023-24 and 2024-25, and funded Scottish Agritourism to provide a leadership role to help deliver the Scottish Agritourism Strategy

Alcohol Advertising

  • The First Minister stated the Scottish Government were “reviewing the responses” to the alcohol marketing consultation. The proposals were widely thought to have been shelved earlier this year.
  • While the Scottish Government “will always support jobs and the economy, we will also work with the industry where appropriate”, the First Minister added there should be “no doubt we will take further action to reduce alcohol harm and particularly to protect children from its ill-effects.”

Opposition Response

  • The Leader of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross labelled it a “reheated programme for government…from a continuity First Minister” carrying on the failed policies of his predecessor. He challenged him on a range of issues, from the future of North Sea oil and gas, details on infrastructure road and ferry projects, and support for the tourism industry.
  • Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar said the package was insufficiently bold to tackle the cost-of-living and NHS crisis. He criticised both Scottish and UK Governments, contending economic growth “had to be at the heart of this parliament,” referencing taxpayer money being wasted on issues like DRS and Highly Protected Marine Areas.
  • Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton began by citing concerns about dangerous concrete in the public sector estate and the “wasted opportunity” to tackle this over the summer. He also argued essential public services in Scotland “were at breaking point”.


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