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Publication - Speech / Statement

Programme for Government: First Minister's speech

Published: 4 Sep 2018
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's speech introducing the Government's programme for Scotland 2018-2019.
Published:
4 Sep 2018
Programme for Government: First Minister's speech

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Parliament

Presiding Officer,

Last year’s Programme for Government set us on a path to address the big challenges faced by Scotland and developed economies around the world.

It set out bold plans to tackle inequality, adapt to an ageing population and move to a low carbon society. 

And it presented a clear vision of the kind of country we want to be.

A nation leading the world in technological innovation and staying true to enduring values of social justice.

A country proud of its history and achievements, but equipping itself to seize the opportunities of the future.

And a society determined to remain open, inclusive and welcoming in the face of rising forces of intolerance, isolation and protectionism.

This Programme for Government today flows from that vision and builds on the progress of the last year and indeed of the last decade.

And it ensures that we remain focused on delivering for today and investing for tomorrow.

It continues and accelerates the major reforms underway in our health, education and justice systems – underpinned of course by our new progressive system of income tax.

It seeks to make further progress on tackling inequality and reducing poverty.

It sets out the next steps in the operation of our new social security system.

And it builds on our work to support Scotland’s economy and encourage innovation.

It does all of this, of course, in the shadow of Brexit.

We simply cannot ignore Brexit, or the UK Government’s shamefully shambolic handling of these negotiations.

For our part, we will continue to make the case for EU membership.

Short of that, we will press the UK Government to remain in the single market and the customs union.

And as the terms of Brexit become clearer in the months ahead, we will consider and set out our view on how Scotland’s interests can best be protected and advanced.

Of course, as we saw just yesterday, it is clear that an increasing number of our fellow citizens believe, as we do, that the best future for Scotland lies in becoming an independent country.

Presiding Officer, this Programme for Government will be impacted by Brexit, but it is not defined by it – instead it sets out how we intend to deliver on our vision of a healthier, wealthier and fairer Scotland.

Let me turn first to the economy.

Economic growth in Scotland over the past year has been higher than in the rest of the UK.

Exports of goods have increased by 12% - the fastest growth of any UK nation.

Youth and women’s unemployment are lower than in the UK as a whole.

And in the last decade Scotland has significantly narrowed our productivity gap with the rest of the UK.

These are strong foundations.

But we must intensify our efforts to build an economy fit for the future.

Last year we set out a range of bold measures. This year, we will continue to deliver.

Firstly, we will ensure that the business environment in Scotland remains competitive and that we are providing the support that business needs to thrive.

We have already implemented key recommendations of the Barclay Review on business rates – such as relief for new builds and property improvements, and for day nurseries.

I can confirm today that we will introduce a Non-Domestic Rates Bill to implement its other recommendations – for example, reforming rate reliefs and moving to a three year valuation cycle.

In the past year, we established the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board.

Drawing on its recommendations, we will publish a Economic Action Plan in October.

We will again increase the number of modern apprenticeships in line with our commitment to 30,000 per year by 2020.

And we will work in partnership with industry and trade unions to produce, by early next year, a new skills action plan - ensuring a skilled and productive workforce for the short, medium and long term.

We will continue to support the South of Scotland Economic Partnership with £10 million of funding.

And I can announce that in the coming year, we will introduce legislation to establish a South of Scotland Enterprise Agency.

We will also continue to invest in the modern infrastructure a strong economy depends on.

Around this time last year, the Queensferry Crossing opened and the M8 and central Scotland motorway improvements were completed.

This weekend, one of the largest new sections of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route will open. The road will be fully open to traffic by the end of the year.

And in the coming year, we will continue to make progress towards the dualling of the A9; we will take forward important projects including the Maybole bypass; and continue our ongoing road maintenance programme.

Last year, I announced that Scotland would aim to remove the need for new diesel and petrol cars by 2032.

We will now make further progress towards that goal.

We will invest £15 million to add a further 1,500 electric charge points in homes, businesses and council premises across the country.

We are increasing our Low Carbon Transport Loan Fund from £8 million to £20 million - enabling more businesses and individuals to make the switch to electric and other ultra-low emission vehicles.

And over the next year we will add 500 ultra-low emission vehicles to public sector fleets.

In the coming year, the benefits of our massive investment in rail will come to fruition.

By the end of next year, there will be a 20% increase in seating capacity and 200 new services will operate in eastern and central Scotland.

And of course we will take forward plans to enable a public sector bid for the next ScotRail franchise.

On active travel, having doubled our investment in active travel last year, I can confirm that we will continue that level of investment in the year ahead.

Digital infrastructure is now as important as our transport links.

We have exceeded our target of making fibre broadband available to 95% of properties across Scotland.

And I can confirm today that the three main contracts for our Reaching 100% programme will be awarded in the coming year - ensuring that superfast broadband is available to every business and residential property in every part of Scotland.

Presiding Officer, that is a £600 million pledge of truly universal coverage, unmatched elsewhere in the UK - and it will give Scotland a real competitive edge in the economy of tomorrow.

The infrastructure investments I have talked about so far are important to the economy in the here and now.

However, it is with an eye to the long term that I now turn to two potentially transformational commitments.

Last year, I confirmed our intention to set up a Scottish National Investment Bank and earlier this year an implementation plan was published.

I can confirm today that in the coming year we will introduce the legislation that will formally underpin the Scottish National Investment Bank.

The bank will provide patient finance for ambitious companies and important infrastructure projects - and it will do so in line with defined national missions, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It will be a cornerstone of the high-innovation, low carbon economy we want to create here in Scotland and the Finance Secretary will set out more detail tomorrow.

But today I also want to set a wider investment ambition for Scotland.

Traditionally, the level of government infrastructure investment in the UK has lagged behind other G7 countries.

For Scotland to close that gap, we would need to increase annual investment by around 1% of GDP - equivalent to an additional £1.5 billion per year.

I can announce today that we will aim to close that gap by the end of the next parliament.

The pledge I am making today is to increase capital investment year on year, so that by 2025/26 it is £1.5 billion higher than the 2019/20 baseline of around £5 billion.

Between now and then, that commitment will mean investment in our hospitals, schools, houses, transport, low carbon technology and digital connections will be around £7 billion higher than current spending projections.

The Infrastructure Secretary will set out in the coming months the detail of how we will deliver on this pledge and the priorities for investment, but I can confirm today that in addition to traditional capital and borrowing, the Scottish Futures Trust will examine new profit sharing finance schemes, such as the Welsh Government’s Mutual Investment Model, to help secure both the investment we need and best value for the taxpayer.

Presiding Officer, I hope the whole parliament will get behind this national mission - a level of investment in our vital economic and social infrastructure that will protect and create jobs in the short term, and support growth and productivity in the long term.

Finally, on the economy, let me set out further action to protect and enhance Scotland’s reputation as a trading nation.

We have already taken steps to strengthen our presence in Europe and around the world – for example by doubling SDI representation on mainland Europe and establishing new Scottish Government offices in Dublin and Berlin. Our new Paris and Ottawa offices will open this autumn.

In addition, I can announce today that we will launch a major new drive to increase exports.

The value of our exports has grown strongly in the past year, but we need to do more. Right now, around 70 businesses account for approximately 50% of our international exports. It is vital that we grow that base.

The new national export plan will be published in full by next Spring. But after consultation with business, I can announce today some of the key strands that we will start on immediately.

We will provide intensive support for 50 high growth businesses each year to help them grow their overseas activity.

We will create 100 new business to business peer mentorships each year to help new exporters.

We will expand the network of specialists working in key overseas markets to identify untapped potential.

And we will increase export finance support for companies looking to enter new markets.

I can confirm that this work will be backed by £20 million of new funding over the next three years - helping to ensure that more of Scotland’s world class produce and innovations are enjoyed across the globe, with the benefits realised here at home.

Presiding Officer,

We must also continue to retain and attract talent. We want to make clear that Scotland remains an open, inclusive, outward-looking nation.

So let me make this very clear again today - this government will always make the positive case for immigration.

As part of that, we must protect EU citizens who already live here. We will argue that they should not have to pay settled status fees post Brexit  – it is simply wrong that people already making a contribution to our country should have to pay to retain rights they currently have to live and work here.

However, if the UK Government persists, I can confirm that the Scottish Government will meet the settled status fees for EU citizens who work in our devolved public services.

I can also announce that, alongside an Electoral Reform Bill, we will introduce an Electoral Franchise Bill to ensure that current EU citizens who live in Scotland can continue to vote in Scottish Parliament and local government elections.

These actions will provide practical help. They will also, I hope, send an important message - that we highly value the contribution of EU citizens who have chosen to make Scotland their home and we want them to stay.

Supporting growth in our economy is essential - but so too is ensuring that growth is environmentally sustainable.

Many of our actions will help us to meet the targets set out in the new Climate Change Bill, which will progress through Parliament in the coming year.

Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions have almost halved since 1990.

By 2050, they will have reduced by at least 90%.

Achieving that target will mean that Scotland will be a carbon neutral country by 2050 – we will have no net emissions of carbon dioxide.

I can also confirm our firm intention to move towards net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases - not simply carbon dioxide - as soon as we credibly can.

It’s worth being clear about the scale of our ambition.

The targets in the Climate Change Bill for 2020, 2030 and 2040 are the most stringent statutory targets anywhere in the world - without exception.

And our 2050 target is the most ambitious anywhere in the world that is based solely on domestic actions, rather than relying on paying other countries to reduce emissions for us.

We recognise that the transition to a low carbon economy is, first and foremost, an overwhelming moral imperative - but it is also a huge economic opportunity.

And we are – by any reasonable benchmark – a global leader in living up to our international obligations.

This programme for government will build on that record.

As well as progressing the Climate Change Bill, we will continue to invest in projects such as the Central Scotland Green Network, and the water environment fund.

I can confirm that in the coming year, we will ban the manufacture and sale of plastic stemmed cotton buds.

Following recent consultation, we will design and implement a deposit return scheme for drinks containers.

And we will ask the Expert Panel on Environmental Charges to recommend other actions to reduce plastic pollution.

We will also establish a national deep sea marine reserve by the end of 2019.

We also intend to establish an Animal Welfare Commission to ensure that high standards of welfare are maintained for both domesticated and wild animals.

And I can announce today that we will, by the end of this Parliament, introduce what is commonly known as “Finn’s law” to increase the available sentences for the worst forms of animal cruelty, including attacks on police dogs.

In addition to creating a wealthier and greener Scotland, we will also create a fairer country.

2018 is Scotland’s year of young people - a celebration of the contribution that children and young people make to our society.

But the most important thing any government can do is make sure that all of our young people have a fair chance to succeed.

We are striving to do that at all stages of young people’s lives.

The baby box has been a huge success, with more than 56,000 already delivered.

Our plan to almost double childcare will help give every child the best possible start in life and save working families up to £4,500 a year for each child. 

Our work to deliver this commitment will continue in the year ahead – with almost 2000 people starting on early learning and childcare apprenticeships; 1500 additional college places; and 400 extra graduate level places.

And to ensure the quality of our early learning and childcare provision, a new National Standard for Funded Providers will be published before the end of this year.

Closing the attainment gap and raising standards in our schools remains the overriding mission of this government.

Progress is being made, but in the coming year our school reforms will accelerate.

I can confirm today that by the end of this year, a new Headteachers’ Charter, backed by new national guidance, will be published.

The Charter will put headteachers much more in control of the important decisions on curriculum, staffing and budgets that are fundamental to the performance of their schools.

We will also continue to invest an additional £180 million a year - including money direct to schools through the Pupil Equity Fund - to help close the attainment gap.

We will commit £10 million in this academic year to enhance the high quality practical support and expertise that is available to teachers through the Regional Improvement Collaboratives and Education Scotland.

And in the year ahead we will pilot and roll out a new national survey of parents and carers, as part of our recently published parental engagement plan.

We will also continue to protect free tuition for higher education.

However, as part of our work to widen access to university, we will also take the first steps to implement the recommendations of the independent review of student support.

I can confirm that next year we will invest £16 million to increase college bursaries and university grants for students from the lowest income families.

We will also invest more than £5 million to increase bursaries and grants for care experienced young people at college or university - to a level equivalent to the real living wage.

Presiding Officer, extensive research shows that adverse experiences in childhood – ACES – directly affect outcomes later in life. So we will continue to embed, across all areas of our work, a greater focus on preventing ACEs and also on supporting the resilience of children and adults to overcome childhood adversity.

And, finally, I said last year that we would consider how to further embed the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law and policy, including the option of incorporation.

Having now carefully considered this matter, I can announce today that we will incorporate the principles of the UN Convention into Scots law.

We will work with partners and Parliament to do it in the most effective way possible – but in this Year of Young People, there can be few more powerful symbols of this Government’s commitment to our young people.

Children will also benefit from our actions to address poverty.

The new Child Poverty Act set targets for 2030 that will reduce child poverty to the lowest level in Scotland’s history. 

We are now investing in the actions needed to achieve those target.

I can announce today that by June next year we will report on progress to develop a new income supplement.

In the coming year, we will also invest £12 million in an intensive parental employment support programme to help parents on low incomes gain employment and get on in their careers.

We will also step up our work to eradicate holiday hunger, investing a further £2 million to tackle food insecurity amongst children.

The coming year will see our work to create a Scottish social security system based on dignity and respect step up a gear.

Our new agency, Social Security Scotland is already open for business and moving firmly into its delivery phase.

It is with great pride, therefore, that I can make these announcements today.

Firstly, I can confirm that the first payments of the new Carers’ Allowance Supplement will begin next week. The supplement will benefit more than 75,000 carers - increasing their allowance by more than £400 a year.

I can also announce that the new Young Carer Grant worth £300 a year will be paid from autumn next year.

And in the coming year, we will provide enhanced assistance for those on lower incomes struggling with funeral costs.

And, finally, the year ahead will see us deliver the new Best Start Grant. This will provide the most extensive support anywhere in the UK for new parents on low incomes: £600 on the birth of a first child, £300 on the birth of any subsequent child - with no two child limit or abhorrent rape clause - and £250 for each child when they start nursery and again when they start school. The Best Start Grant will benefit around 50,000 families each year.

Presiding Officer,

I said last year that the Best Start Grant would be paid from summer next year.

I am delighted to announce today that, assuming we get the required DWP co-operation, the first pregnancy and baby payments will be made before Christmas this year - six months ahead of schedule.

Our work to build a fairer Scotland will also include, in the year ahead, a new Consumer Protection Bill to secure fairer outcomes for consumers. 

And, as part of our efforts to tackle fuel poverty, I can confirm that we will liaise with key stakeholders this year, before formally consulting next year, on our preferred model for a publicly owned not-for-profit energy company.

We will also continue to take concerted action to address homelessness and eradicate rough sleeping.

Last year, we established the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group. It has already made its recommendations - with some of them already implemented.

We have committed £21 million of additional funding, and I can confirm that before the end of this year, we will publish a comprehensive action plan setting out how we will deliver all 70 of the Action Group’s recommendations.

However, I can announce today that implementation of the Housing First approach will be central to our plans. This ensures that a homeless individual or household is moved directly into their own settled accommodation rather than through a variety of different housing options.

In the first instance - from this autumn - we will work with Social Bite, the Glasgow Homelessness Network and the Corra Foundation to support Housing First pathfinder projects in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Stirling and Dundee.

We will also continue to invest in the supply of affordable housing.

In this financial year, we will increase our support for affordable homes by a more than a quarter - from £590 million to more than £750 million.

And over this parliament, we will ensure that more than 50,000 affordable homes are delivered, including at least 35,000 for social rent. 

Within this, we will work with councils and housebuilders to increase the supply of accessible housing for disabled people.

We will also work with local government, communities and businesses on short term lets. We want to ensure that councils have the appropriate powers to balance the needs of their communities with wider economic interests.

Of course, for investment in housing, and infrastructure more generally to benefit communities fully, we need a fair and effective planning system.

In the coming months, we will progress the new Planning Bill through Parliament and ensure that people get a chance to have an early say in shaping developments in their area.

The voice of local communities is of course vital to our partnership with local government.

This programme reaffirms our commitment to a strong partnership between national and local government.

This is reflected in our work with COSLA to take forward the Local Governance Review to strengthen local decision making.

I can also confirm today that we will extend the community land fund to 2021 to enable more community land purchases, support the work of the Scottish Land Commission as it shapes land reform for the future, and steer the Scottish Crown Estate Bill through Parliament.

I want to mention three further initiatives that will contribute to the strength and wellbeing of local communities.

In two weeks, the new V&A museum in Dundee will open to the public - a stunning reminder of the potential of culture to both regenerate and bring joy to communities across the country.

Before the end of the year, we will publish a new national culture strategy, which will demonstrate the intrinsic value we attach to arts and culture, and our determination to ensure that everyone can participate in cultural activities.

Before the end of 2018 we will also publish a national strategy to tackle social isolation and loneliness – it will draw on the results of our recent consultation, and make Scotland one of the first countries in the world to develop a strategy to address an issue which is of growing importance around the world.

And by March 2019, we will publish an Older People’s Framework setting out how we will achieve better outcomes in terms of services for older people, as well as in their participation in the labour market and engagement in local communities.

Presiding officer, the two final areas I want to talk about today are justice and health.

Recorded crime in Scotland is now at its lowest level since 1974.  The reconviction rate is at its lowest level in almost 20 years. And 95% of people in Scotland rate their own neighbourhood as being fairly or very good.

By any reasonable measure, this is a significant record of achievement.

We are determined to improve on it.

We will protect the police revenue budget in real terms throughout this parliament.

In addition, £31 million will be provided for police reform in this financial year – helping the police to invest in new technology and work more effectively with partners.

The fire service budget is also being protected - with an additional £15 million of spending capacity this year to help with, among other things, the introduction of rapid response vehicles and more full time posts in our rural areas.

Presiding Officer,

As we reform the justice system, it remains absolutely vital that we improve the support we give to the victims of crime.  

We are already taking important steps to do that through, for example, the Vulnerable Witnesses Bill that we introduced to this Parliament last year.

This year we will go further.

I am announcing today a major package of reforms that will better protect victims in the criminal justice system.

Firstly, we will work with Victim Support Scotland to reduce - and where possible eliminate - the need for victims to retell their story to different organisations when they need help. 

We will also expand the range of serious offences where the victim has the right to make an impact statement, setting out to the court how they have been affected physically, emotionally or financially. We will consult on the details early next year.

We will improve the information and support available to victims and families when prisoners are released from prison, and consult on proposals to increase the transparency of the parole system.

And, finally, we will establish a new support service to provide more and better help to families who have been bereaved by murder or culpable homicide.

Presiding Officer, we will also continue to improve the support available to victims of rape and sexual assault.

We, over the summer, recently announced additional funding of £1.1 million to enable sexual offence trials to come to court as quickly as possible.

Today, I am announcing that we will make available a further £2 million over three years to speed up access to support for those affected by rape or sexual assault.

£1.5 million of this additional funding will go to rape crisis centres - starting next month - with the remainder available to meet particular local needs.

In the coming year, we will also consult on proposals to ensure that in cases of rape or sexual assault, forensic medical examinations - and access to healthcare more generally - are a priority for the NHS and provided consistently across Scotland. We intend to bring forward legislation later in this parliament.

We will also continue to work to reduce and eliminate domestic abuse. The legislation already passed by Parliament to make coercive or controlling behaviours illegal will come into force this year.

I can confirm today that we will now consult on the introduction of new protective orders which can bar perpetrators of domestic abuse from their victims’ homes.

In addition, we will introduce a new Family Law Bill to provide further protection for domestic abuse victims in contact or residence cases, and ensure that children’s best interests are central to the consideration of such cases.

Finally, we will introduce a Female Genital Mutilation Bill to strengthen the protection provided to women and girls.

There are a range of other important measures that we will take to improve the justice system.

We will consult later this year on changes to modernise and improve the law on hate crime.

We will extend the presumption against ineffective short sentences from 3 to 12 months, once additional safeguards are in place for domestic abuse victims.

In addition, legislation for new drug driving limits, covering 17 different drug types, will be introduced - and will come into force in 2019. This – together with Scotland’s already lower drink-drive limit – will ensure we continue to lead the way in the UK when it comes to improving road safety.

A Biometric Data Bill will provide for a code of practice for acquiring, using, retaining and disposing data such as fingerprints and DNA samples. It will take forward the recommendations of the Independent Advisory Group and modernise the law in an area of great importance to the justice system.

And we will introduce a new Disclosure Bill to strike a better balance between helping people with convictions to gain employment and providing strong safeguards for vulnerable people and the general public.

I can also announce today that, in the year ahead, we will consult on reforms to the law of defamation, with a view to bringing forward legislation later in this Parliament.

Presiding Officer

We are as a Parliament and indeed a country proud of our reputation as one of the best places in the world for LGBTI+ people, and we want to make further progress in the months and years ahead.

I can therefore confirm that we will continue work to develop legislation to reform the law on gender recognition.

And in the coming year, we will introduce a Census Bill which will permit the National Records of Scotland, in future censuses, to ask questions on sexual orientation and transgender status.

Presiding Officer, the final important area I want to talk about today is health. 

Last week’s inpatient survey results showed that satisfaction with our national health service remains at a very high level.

Our accident and emergency facilities have been the best performing in the whole of the UK for the last three years.

Outcomes like this are a tribute to the expertise, dedication and compassion of NHS staff across the country.

It is therefore absolutely right that NHS staff will receive a minimum pay rise of 9% over the next three years.

Last year, we introduced to this Parliament two important health bills which are due to come into force next year – the Human Tissue (Authorisation) Bill will implement an “opt-out” system for organ donation, and the Health and Care (Staffing) Bill will ensure we have the right staff in the right places.

However, all of us know that our NHS - in common with health services across the UK and elsewhere - faces significant challenges.

The key challenge is adapting to an ageing population - which is, of course, a good thing - and the rising demand that flows from that.

We will continue to meet our pledge to invest record sums in the NHS.

However, we will also progress important reforms to how care is delivered and take further action to improve population health.

Over the next year, we will take forward work to implement the new GP contract, support integration of health and social care and we will invest a higher proportion of the health budget in primary, community and social care.

From next year, we will also implement Frank’s Law, extending free personal care to eligible under 65 year olds.

And we will continue to champion a preventative approach to Scotland’s public health challenges. In May, we became the first country anywhere in the world to introduce minimum alcohol pricing.

This year we will take forward plans to reduce childhood obesity.  Amongst other measures, we will consult on restricting the promotion and marketing of food and drink that is high in fat, sugar or salt.

Preventing ill health and building up community services are absolutely essential to ensuring a health service fit for the future.

But so too is ensuring that acute services can meet the demands placed on them.

We know that rising demand has put significant pressure on waiting times. And we recognise that current performance is not good enough.

I can therefore announce today that the Health Secretary will, later this month, publish a waiting times improvement plan, setting out a range of short and medium term actions to substantially and sustainably improve performance.

Part of the longer term plan to meet waiting time targets on a sustainable basis is the creation - over this Parliament - of five new elective treatment centres.

I can therefore confirm today that work on the new West of Scotland Centre, at the Golden Jubilee, will start in the early part of next year and work on the North of Scotland Centre at Raigmore in Inverness, will be underway by the middle of next year.

I can also confirm today that, as part of our work to create a specialist major trauma network, new major trauma centres will open in Aberdeen next month and in Dundee in November.

Finally, Presiding Officer I want to turn to mental health.

As the stigma around mental health reduces, demand for services is rising.

We have a duty to meet that demand quickly and to meet it appropriately.

That means doing more to support positive mental health and prevent ill health.

It means delivering greater provision of mental health support in communities, including in our schools.

And it means ensuring that those experiencing serious illness can access specialist services more quickly.

Today, I am announcing a package of measures that will complement our mental health strategy and will be backed by a quarter of a billion pounds of additional investment, starting this year and progressively increasing over the subsequent four years.

The Mental Health Minister will set out full details shortly, but let me cover some of the key elements now.

Firstly, we will develop a stronger network of care and support for the 1 in 5 new mothers - around 11,000 a year - who experience mental health problems during and after pregnancy.

This will include greater access to counselling for those experiencing mild symptoms and an expansion of specialist services for those with moderate or more severe illness.

Secondly, we will utilise technology to extend access for adults to a range of support services. This will include improvements to the NHS24 Breathing Space service, extending online access to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, improving access to psychological assessment and therapy in rural areas, and strengthening the handling of mental health calls to the 111 service.

However, most of our additional investment will support improvements to the provision of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

The Task force on Children and Young People’s Mental Health will report this autumn – however based on the early discussions held by its Chair, Dr Dame Denise Coia, there are a range of actions we are committing to now.

Firstly, we will invest £60 million in additional school nursing and counselling services.

This will support 350 counsellors and 250 additional school nurses and ensure that every secondary school has a counselling service.

We will enhance support and professional learning materials for teachers and ensure that, by the end of academic year 2019/20, every local authority has access to mental health first aid training for teachers.

We will fund an additional 80 counsellors to work across further and higher education.

And we will develop a community mental wellbeing service for 5-24 year olds, offering immediate access to counselling, self care advice and family and peer support.

We will also put in place plans to fast track young people with the most serious mental illness to specialist services - as well as taking targeted action in the short term to reduce the longest waits for services.

Presiding Officer as I said a moment ago more detail will be published shortly but I hope the package I have announced today underlines the commitment of this government to ensuring that our health services value and support mental wellbeing just as much as physical wellbeing.

Presiding Officer, the Budget Bill will complete and indeed underpin our legislative programme for the coming year.

The 12 Bills we will introduce in the coming session are of course part of a much wider programme of work to tackle the major social and economic challenges of the day.

Over the next 12 months this Government will also:

  • make progress towards doubling free childcare provision
  • further narrow the attainment gap in our schools, and widen access to our universities
  • pay the first benefits in Scotland’s new social security system and take action to tackle poverty and inequality
  • help our NHS adapt to an ageing population and begin a transformation of mental health services
  • tackle major public health challenges
  • legislate for a Scottish National Investment Bank, invest for the future and support more business to sell their goods across the globe
  • support the transition to a low carbon economy, and
  • do everything we possibly can do to protect our economy from Brexit and put Scotland on the right track for the future.

I commend this Programme for Government to Parliament.