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A precious opportunity

Published: 25 May 2016 13:44

FM pledges to bring others together behind a common mission.

The First Minister today said the next five years represent a "precious opportunity" to make real improvements for the benefit of future generations, as she urged parties across the parliament to seize that opportunity.

Nicola Sturgeon made the call as she outlined a comprehensive programme of action to improve the lives and opportunities of Scotland's young people, to grow the economy, to transform and reform public services and to empower communities across the country.

With education at the heart of her priorities, the First Minister confirmed that the Scottish Government will bring forward a clear delivery plan to improve Scottish education before schools break for summer.

Ms Sturgeon also announced a major summit on school reform and raising attainment to collectively drive forward improvements in our schools and confirmed plans to review the funding formula for schools, including investing an extra £750 million over the next five years directly in school education. As part of this, head-teachers will be given more freedom and support to direct funds into learning.

Emphasising her commitment to delivering "world class public services", the First Minister said those services must be underpinned by a strong economy as she announced an extension of the small business bonus scheme, to ensure 100,000 small businesses will not pay any business rates from next April. Ms Sturgeon also put the focus firmly on innovation and internationalisation with confirmation of an end to end review of our economic development and skills agencies to ensure they are delivering the support young people, our universities and our businesses need.

To support the rural economy, Ms Sturgeon announced that a route map for the delivery of broadband services to 100% of properties in Scotland would be published over the summer.

Focussing on the government's determination to deliver opportunity for all the First Minister confirmed that, within a year, all children born in Scotland will receive a baby box to give them the best start in life. The Scottish Government will take early action to prepare for powers over social security, a maternity grant for new mothers and consideration of a young carers' allowance.

Speaking in parliament, the First Minister said:

"I want our work to close the attainment gap to be the mission, not just of this government or even this parliament, but of the country as a whole.

"I want it to be guided by the best possible evidence from around the world - that's why I announced yesterday that I will establish an International Council of Education Advisers.

"And I want it to be built – as far as possible – on consensus.

"To that end, I can confirm today that over the next few months, we will convene a major summit on school reform and raising attainment – it will bring together all the key stakeholders in education to look at what each of us can do to help raise attainment and how collectively we drive this work forward. We will invite party leaders and education spokespeople to attend.

"We will work hard to build consensus and partnership. What we will not do, though, is allow the search for consensus to result in inertia or in the lowest common denominator for action. We intend to be bold and to move forward with purpose and with pace.

"We have a precious opportunity over the next five years to make real improvements for the benefit of this and future generations – we are absolutely determined to seize that opportunity."

The First Minister added:

"The priorities we pursue over the next five years will shape Scotland for the next generation and beyond. The proposals I have outlined today have at their heart a faith in social justice – a belief that we will prosper as a nation, and succeed as a society, if we encourage every person's potential and respect every person's dignity.

"It is only by empowering individuals that we can achieve our shared ambition for a fairer and more prosperous nation.

"That sense of empowerment – for individuals, for families, for communities and for our country as a whole – is what we seek to build over the next five years. By doing so, we can make lasting progress towards true equality of opportunity. I look forward to working across parliament to achieve that goal."

Early actions set out by the First Minister include:

  • Publishing a Delivery Plan to improve Scottish education
  • Hosting a national summit on school reform and raising attainment
  • Beginning discussions on reforming school funding, ensuring those with least in life receive the most support at school
  • Appointing an International Council of Education Advisers.
  • Appointing a Commissioner for Fair Access to drive the change that will be needed in our universities and colleges and ensure the recommendations of the Widening Access Commission are implemented in full
  • Consulting on social security legislation as soon as possible, in order to introduce a bill into Parliament during the first year of this government and beginning work to establish a Scottish Social Security Agency
  • Exploring the expansion the Scottish carer's benefit to offer extra support to group of young carers coping with difficult responsibilities
  • Carrying out a major review of the roles, responsibilities and relationships of our enterprise, development and skills agencies over the summer
  • Setting out a clear timetable and routemap to ensure that, by 2021, every household in Scotland has access to fibre broadband
  • Consulting on new legislation on Climate Change to cut Scottish emissions by at least 50% by 2020
  • Implementing the Land Reform Act and progressing the commitment to introduce a register of controlling interests to increase transparency of land ownership in Scotland
  • Re-appointing an Independent Adviser on Poverty and Inequality
  • Publishing a Fairer Scotland Action Plan
  • Publishing a Labour Market Strategy, building on the work undertaken by the Fair Work Convention

Notes to editors

A full transcript of the First Minister's speech can be found here http://news.scotland.gov.uk/Speeches-Briefings/Priorities-speech-Taking-Scotland-Forward-24f8.aspx