The Scottish Parliament has returned from summer recess and it has been straight down to business as MSPs last week debated the Programme for Government, put forward by the First Minister and her Cabinet. The Programme includes proposed new legislation, in line with our Manifesto commitments, that will help us build a more prosperous nation with a dynamic, sustainable and inclusive economy.
There are several themes to the programme including developing a world class education system with equal opportunities for all; transforming our public services, nurturing the NHS and working for a healthier, safer Scotland. It is also about empowering people and communities to effect change. With the continued confusion and uncertainty about Brexit, there is also a focus on Scotland’s place in the world.
In total, the Government will be putting forward fourteen new bills across a range of areas including Air Passenger Duty changes; better access to civil justice; a Bill to transfer responsibility for the Forestry Commission in Scotland to the Scottish Government; a Bill to address the issue of gender imbalance on Public Boards; an Islands Bill to empower our island communities; a Railway Policing Bill and a Bill to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.
A very full agenda then for MSPs in the year ahead.
Three of the proposed new Bills, in particular, will be significant in delivering the Government’s social justice commitments. These include a Child Poverty Bill which will set out a new approach to tackling poverty and inequality and confirms our clear ambition to eradicate child poverty.
The Bill was brought forward in response to the Tory Government decision to repeal large parts of the Child Poverty Act 2010, which changed the way that the UK Government measured child poverty, a move which was widely seen as an attempt to downplay the real extent of the problem.
The legislation will focus on maximising household resources, improving children’s wellbeing and life chances and providing well designed, sustainable, places to live and learn, which ties in with our housing and school building commitments and the doubling of child care provision.
Specifically, the new legislation will place a duty on Scottish Ministers to publish a Child Poverty Delivery Plan every 5 Years, and to report back to Parliament on that Plan annually.
A new Social Security Bill will take forward the Government’s priorities for the limited social security powers that are to be devolved from Westminster. Specific areas, which are currently being consulted on and are expected to be reflected in the Bill, include embedding the Government’s principles for social security into the legislation, including the very important principle that people should be treated with dignity and respect.