- The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out the Scottish Government’s legislative programme for the year ahead, entitled A fairer, greener Scotland, the first since the SNP Scottish Government reached a Cooperation Agreement with the Scottish Green Party.
- While three Bills have already been introduced to the Scottish Parliament following the election back in May, the Scottish Government intend to introduce a further 12 Bills (including the annual Budget Bill) over the course of the parliamentary year.
- The Programme for Government also includes a number of Bills, consultations, spending commitments, and regulations which will be taken forward later in the parliamentary session.
- The First Minister outlined some major public service reforms, including the establishment of a National Care Service and support for NHS recovery, but also funds for increased housebuilding, as well as addressing the climate crisis through becoming a net zero nation. However, many of these were widely trailed or mentioned during her speech last week when welcoming the Scottish Greens into government.
- While noting that her immediate priority was to lead Scotland towards Covid recovery, the First Minister reaffirmed her commitment to hold a second independence referendum, Covid-permitting, before 2023 and confirmed that the government would restart work on a detailed prospectus for independence.
- In response, the opposition criticised the focus on independence above recovery as well as the paucity of ambition contained in the Programme for Government.
Bills and Headline Announcements
The Scottish Government will introduce the following 12 Bills in 2021/22:
|Annual Budget (No.1) Bill
|Gender Recognition Bill
|Bail and Release from Custody Bill
|Good Food Nation Bill
|Coronavirus (Compensation for Self-isolation) Bill
|Miners’ Strike Pardon Bill
|COVID Recovery Bill
|Moveable Transactions Bill
|Fireworks and Pyrotechnics Bill
|National Care Service Bill
|Fox Control Bill
|Non-Domestic Rates COVID-19 Appeals Bill
Relevant Programme for Government Announcements:
Short-Term Let Regulation
- There was no mention of short-term let regulation in the Programme for Government but the Scottish Government have previously announced that the laying of their licensing regulations before parliament would be delayed until November 2021.
- The document notes that the “tourism sector, along with the hospitality sector, is globally recognised as having been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. Effective recovery will be vital in ensuring the sector can be a force for good in the local and national economy – through fair work, sustainable jobs, and value for communities – and place Scotland as a world leader in responsible tourism.”
- The Scottish Government will support the recommendations of the Tourism Recovery Taskforce, including a £25 million portfolio of projects in 2021‑22, and consider the best approach to future years.
- They will maintain their investment of over £6m annually in the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund.
- Develop Scotland’s tourism infrastructure, in both urban and rural areas, investing £10m in initiatives like the Inverness Castle Project and Lossiemouth East Beach footbridge, and improving rural hotel facilities
- Refresh and reinvigorate successful Brand Scotland activity, building on existing campaign activity, to enhance Scotland’s international reputation and the country’s position as an attractive place to live, work, study, visit and do business.
- Review Air Passenger Duty rates and bands ahead of the introduction of the devolved Air Departure Tax to ensure that the policy aligns with climate change goals.
- There was no mention of a tourist tax or levy in the Programme for Government.
- Deliver 110,000 energy efficient, affordable homes by 2032 –– at least 70% of which will be in the social rented sector and 10% in remote, rural and island communities.
- Develop a Remote, Rural & Islands Housing action plan, to meet the housing needs of, and retain and attract people to, those communities, backed by at least £45m as part of the overall affordable housing supply programme funding in this parliamentary session
- Maintain the Small Business Bonus Scheme for the lifetime of the Parliament.
- Maintain the Business Growth Accelerator (BGA) and Fresh Start Reliefs for the duration of this Parliament.
- Extend the 100% NDR relief for properties in the retail, leisure, aviation and hospitality sectors for all of 2021-22.
- Introduce a Non-Domestic Rates COVID-19 Appeals Bill to prevent the inappropriate use of material change of circumstances provisions in the non‑domestic rates legislation in relation to COVID‑19, or COVID‑19 restrictions.
More generally, health, social care, inequalities, and the environment appear to be the main thrust of the prospectus, with the economy further down the list of priorities, partially reflecting the influence of the Scottish Greens in the Cooperation Agreement.
Some of the main headline announcements in the Programme for Government include:
- Launching a new NHS Recovery Plan backed by more than £1bn of targeted investment to address backlogs and provide £10bn for the NHS estate;
- Consult on the creation of a National Care Service;
- Remove dental charges for all;
- Supporting a world‑changing agreement at COP26 and implementing the first Just Transition Plan for the energy sector;
- Bringing about a “green transport revolution” through decarbonising public transport and providing free nationwide bus travel for those under 22;
- Providing a new system of “wraparound” childcare before and after school and during the holidays;
- Develop work on a Minimum Income Guarantee and a pilot to introduce a four-day working week;
- Provide £1bn of targeted investment for Covid-19 recovery;
- Begin work on a National Infrastructure Company;
- Launch a 10-year National Strategy for Economic Transformation in the autumn, alongside a new National Challenge Competition which will provide up to £50m to projects with the greatest potential to transform Scotland’s economy; and
- Provide £3.5bn to provide additional affordable homes, 70% for social rent.
- The Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross accused the First Minister of placing independence above jobs and Covid recovery.
- Anas Sarwar of Scottish Labour attacked the lack of boldness and ambition in the Scottish Government’s plans, calling it a “tired and rehashed programme.”
- Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton chose to focus on mental health waiting times, seeking answers as to how the Scottish Government intended to clear the backlog.
 The Programme for Government for 2021-22 can be viewed in full here: https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/strategy-plan/2021/09/fairer-greener-scotland-programme-government-2021-22/documents/fairer-greener-scotland-programme-government-2021-22/fairer-greener-scotland-programme-government-2021-22/govscot%3Adocument/fairer-greener-scotland-programme-government-2021-22.pdf