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03/09/19 15:42

FM: Programme for Government

3 September 2019

Presiding Officer,

The centrepiece of this Programme for Government is our work to tackle the climate emergency. 

However, I must begin today by addressing the political and constitutional emergency that is engulfing the UK.

Today, in the House of Commons, MPs from across the political divide will seek to block the possibility of a no deal Brexit.

Given the anti-democratic move last week by the Prime Minister to shut down Parliament, it is absolutely vital that this effort succeeds.

We will do everything possible to stop the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Scotland did not vote for any form of Brexit, and having a catastrophic no deal Brexit imposed upon on us is completely and utterly unacceptable.

As long as this outcome remains a risk the Scottish Government will do all we can to mitigate the impact on families, communities and businesses across our country.

We will also work to minimise the impact on this Programme for Government - but clearly, if a no deal Brexit happens, it will not be possible to remove that impact entirely.

Most importantly of all, we intend to offer the people of Scotland the choice of a better and more positive future as an independent nation. 

The Referendums Bill introduced before recess is about to resume its parliamentary progress.

I can confirm today that, during the passage of the Bill, we will seek agreement to the transfer of power that will put the referendum beyond legal challenge.

We have a clear democratic mandate to offer the choice of independence within this term of Parliament - and we intend to do so.

Of course, it now seems inevitable that there will be an early UK general election.

Presiding Officer,

It is easy to feel - with good reason - that the last 12 months have been dominated by Brexit.

But in Scotland, we have made important progress in creating a better and a fairer country.

We have established a new Social Security Agency, which is now providing assistance to more than 90,000 people across our country.

We have made progress in closing the attainment gap in our schools and widening access to our universities.

We have continued to recruit childcare workers and build or refurbish nurseries to prepare for our unprecedented expansion of early years education and childcare.

World-leading domestic abuse legislation has come into force.

And according to the most recent figures, our exports have grown more rapidly than those of the rest of the UK, while our unemployment rate is lower.

This year’s Programme for Government builds on that record.

The year ahead will consolidate Scotland’s position as a leader in the battle against climate change.

It will see landmark policies, long in the planning, come to fruition.

For example, the new national investment bank will be established.

And our massive expansion of free universal early years education and childcare will be delivered.

We will continue with record investment in, and reform of, health and social care.

And we will take game changing action to tackle child poverty.

This Programme for Government will reinforce Scotland’s place as a dynamic, open, innovative economy. And it will also help us to build a fairer society – one which is defined by our concern for the rights, dignity and wellbeing of every individual.

In short, while the Westminster government shuts down, the Scottish Government is stepping up.

Earlier this year, I acknowledged that Scotland – like the rest of the world – faces a climate emergency.

Shortly after, I confirmed that the Scottish Government would accept the recommendations of the UK Committee on Climate Change.

We are now committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest - earlier than any other UK nation. Parliament will have the opportunity to pass this legislation in the autumn.

This year’s Programme for Government is an important part of our response to the climate emergency.

It lays the foundations for a new Scottish Green Deal, with measures to reduce emissions, support sustainable and inclusive growth, promote wellbeing, and create a fairer society.

However, while the measures I am setting out today are significant, they should not be viewed as the sum total of our efforts.

In the next 12 months we will receive the recommendations of the Infrastructure Commission, publish a finalised Transport Strategy, complete our Capital Spending Review, renew the National Planning Framework and publish an updated Climate Change Plan.

All of this work is vital in ensuring that Scotland becomes a net zero emissions nation.

Last year I set out a new infrastructure mission for Scotland to increase annual infrastructure investment by 1% of GDP by 2025.

Tackling climate change will be central to the investment decisions that we make.

One area where we must act is transport, currently responsible for more than a third of Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

I can therefore announce the following actions.

Firstly, we will continue to support the growth in electric and ultra low emission car use as part of our aim to phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2032.

Scotland already has one of the most comprehensive charging networks in Europe.

Last week, I announced a pioneering new partnership between the Scottish Government, Scottish Power and SSE to deliver more charging points and the electricity infrastructure to support them.

Over the next year, we will help more businesses and consumers buy ultra low emission vehicles, including second hand ones, with a further £17 million of low carbon transport loans.

On aviation, I am announcing today a bold aim to make the Highlands and Islands the world’s first zero emission aviation region, with flights and airport operations fully decarbonised.

I can advise Parliament that we will trial low or zero emission flights during 2021 - quite literally piloting new technology here in Scotland.

And we intend to decarbonise all flights between airports within Scotland by 2040.

We will also continue to electrify Scotland’s railways. Around three quarters of passenger journeys in Scotland already use electrified lines.

That proportion will continue to grow. Where electrification is not practical or desirable, we will invest in battery-powered trains, and explore the potential of hydrogen powered trains as well. Detailed timescales for this work will be set out in the spring.

However, I can confirm today our overall aim. Scotland’s rail services will be decarbonised by 2035 – 5 years ahead of the UK ambition.

Of course, the vast majority of public transport journeys in Scotland are by bus. In the last eight years, the Scottish government has supported the purchase of almost 500 low emission buses. But we need to do much more than that.

We will work with the new Scottish National Investment Bank, the bus sector and potential investors to seek new forms of financing.

By doing so, we aim to significantly increase the use of low emission buses across the country.

However, if we want to encourage more people to travel by bus, we must also make it a quicker and more reliable option.

I can therefore announce today a major, indeed transformational, capital investment programme.

Over the next few years, we will work with councils on the design and delivery of schemes to reduce congestion through new priority routes for buses in and around our towns and cities.

And I can confirm that we will back this with new investment of more than half a billion pounds.

Last, but by no means least on transport, we will continue to support active travel.

Last year, we doubled our annual investment in cycling and walking from £40 million to £80 million. I can confirm today this increased level of investment will be maintained. It is currently enabling 11 large-scale projects, the first of which, Glasgow’s South City Way, will be completed next year.

Lowering emissions from transport - especially in our cities - is essential for our environment, but also for our health and wellbeing.

The next phase of Glasgow’s low emission zone will start next year, and we expect low emission zones to be in place in Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.

However, I can also confirm today that we will consult on the further

steps we need to take now to achieve the transition to zero emission city centres by 2030.

As well as in transport, we will also intensify our actions to reduce emissions from heating and housing, and tackle fuel poverty.  

We are already investing £500 million in energy efficiency measures over the lifetime of this parliament.

In December we will update our Energy Efficiency Route Map - which is our energy retrofit scheme. We intend to accelerate progress towards improved energy performance certificate ratings in Scotland’s homes.

We will enhance building standards to help us deliver zero and low carbon homes and buildings.

And, in particular, I can announce today that from 2024 - a year earlier than planned for the rest of the UK - we will require all new build homes to be heated from renewable or low carbon sources, rather than fossil fuel boilers.

These steps will be accompanied by additional support from the Scottish Low Carbon Heat Fund, which will provide a minimum of £30 million for renewable heat projects, including heat pumps.

We will also introduce a Heat Networks Bill to regulate district and communal heating networks in a way that supports their growth.

All businesses, third sector organisations and individuals have a role to play in tackling climate change, but the public sector has a special responsibility to lead by example.

That is why we will mobilise our £11 billion procurement budget to help meet our climate change targets. This will include a consultation on new legislation to legally require public bodies to set out how they will use procurement budgets to meet their climate change and circular economy obligations.

I can also announce that publicly owned Scottish Water – the biggest purchaser of electricity in Scotland – will commit to becoming a net zero company by 2040.

And by 2030, it will aim to produce or host three times more renewable energy than it consumes.

Many of the steps I have outlined so far to reduce emissions from transport and heating are dependent on a decarbonised electricity supply. So we will continue to support renewable energy.

Next year we will publish an action plan for the development of hydrogen.

A new Offshore Wind policy statement will set out our plans for that sector, including how we secure more economic and supply chain benefit from our offshore wind resources.

I know - and understand why - many climate change campaigners and others argue that part of our response to the climate emergency should be the immediate withdrawal of support for oil and gas.

However, aside from offshore licensing and regulation being reserved matters, the hard fact is that the early closure of domestic production - before we are able to meet all demand from zero carbon sources - would be likely to increase emissions, because a significant proportion of the oil that would then require to be imported has a higher carbon intensity than UK production.  

However, the oil and gas sector does have a much bigger role to play.

So I can confirm that our support for oil and gas will now be conditional on the sector’s actions to help ensure a sustainable energy transition. As part of that, we will work with the Oil and Gas Technology Centre to help develop renewable technologies that can be integrated with our existing oil and gas infrastructure.

One of those technologies is carbon capture, utilisation and storage.

Scotland has the potential to store huge quantities of carbon dioxide under the North Sea.

We will work with the Scottish National Investment Bank to explore how we can help industry develop this technology, and continue to press the UK Government to develop the UK-wide frameworks needed to make it a success.

Scotland has the opportunity to become a world leader in this essential industry of the future – we must grasp that opportunity.

We will also continue our efforts to reduce waste, and to reuse and recycle materials more effectively. To encourage this further, we will introduce a Circular Economy Bill in the coming year. Among other things, it will enable charges to be applied for items such as single-use coffee cups.

Finally, we will ensure that our land use – including our agriculture, our forestry and our peatland restoration - is consistent with progress towards a net zero economy.

We will support the development of regional land use partnerships between now and 2021.

We will develop an Agriculture Transformation Programme.

And we will invest an additional £5 million to increase our tree planting target from 10,000 to 12,000 hectares next year.

Further detail of all of this will be set out in the updated climate change plan.

Responding to climate change is not simply a moral obligation – it is also an economic and social opportunity. It provides us with an incentive to make our air cleaner, our lifestyles healthier, and our cities and landscapes even more beautiful.

So we will also act to ensure that Scotland benefits economically from being one of the first countries in the world to move to a net-zero future.

The Scottish National Investment Bank, which will become operational next year will invest at least £2 billion over ten years, providing patient finance for ambitious companies and projects that can help us to achieve key national missions.

I can confirm today that the Bank’s primary mission will be securing the transition to a net zero economy.

We will take other steps too.

Under the current Growth Accelerator model - which is currently helping to deliver the new St James Centre here in Edinburgh, for example - local authorities borrow to fund the public infrastructure which is needed to encourage private investment in key projects.

I can announce today that over the next few months, we will work with councils to establish a new Green Growth Accelerator. This will enable local authorities to invest in, and encourage greater private investment in, projects which reduce emissions and boost growth - in effect, a form of Green City/Region Deals.

The Scottish Government will also develop and bring to market a Green Investment Portfolio of projects worth at least £3 billion, covering areas such as heat, waste, power generation and property.

We are without doubt one of the best countries in the world to invest in low carbon or net zero projects – by promoting the Green Investment Portfolio, we will ensure that fact is known to investors around the world.

We are also determined to ensure that the transition to net zero happens in a way which is consistent with our wider vision for a fairer, wealthier Scotland.

The Just Transition Commission will produce an interim report early next year on how the decarbonisation of our economy can reduce inequality and also promote decent, fair, high-value work.

The challenge of guaranteeing good jobs is also why I am announcing that we will develop and publish a climate emergency skills action plan. This will build on the Future Skills Action Plan that is being published later today.

To guarantee good jobs, we must ensure that people have the skills needed for new techniques in construction, energy efficiency, manufacturing and transport. Skills training – not simply for young people, but for people at all stages of their working life – is an essential part of ensuring that people are not left behind by technological change.

All of these actions demonstrate how moving to a net zero economy is compatible with our ambitions to boost Scotland’s productivity, increase our sustainable growth rate and be the country that designs, develops and manufactures the key innovations of the future.

To further support these ambitions, work will start this year on the £48 million National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland. The Lightweight Manufacturing Centre is already open and helping companies to secure the support and services they need.

We will also maintain our increased funding for research and development, with the aim of doubling business investment in R&D by 2025.

And we will continue to support key sectors of our economy.

The Programme for Government details our actions to support sectors such as food and drink, life sciences and industrial biotechnology, digital and data, and the creative industries.

In the coming months, we will launch a new tourism strategy, followed by an action plan in the new year. We are determined to support this vital sector at a time when its extraordinary recent success is presenting challenges as well as considerable opportunities.

In recent years, a great boost for our tourism sector has been the reputation Scotland has earned as a first class host of major events.

Later this month, Gleneagles will host the Solheim Cup.

And next year, Glasgow will host four matches for the Euro 2020 football tournament.

The UEFA European Championships Bill will therefore form part of this year’s legislative programme. It will help ensure the successful delivery of the games hosted by Glasgow, and meet the commitments required by UEFA to prohibit ticket touting and protect commercial rights during the event.

This Programme also recognises the vital importance of ensuring that all parts of Scotland benefit from economic growth.

We will continue to support City Region Deals and regional Growth Deals.

We will also support the rural economy.

By the end of the year we will publish the first ever National Islands Plan.

And by April next year, we will establish South of Scotland Enterprise.

We will also continue to deliver improved digital infrastructure to every part of our country.

Our commitment to provide access to superfast broadband for every home and business in Scotland is the most ambitious of any government anywhere in the UK, which is particularly impressive when we consider it is largely a reserved matter.

The £600 million R100 programme will take superfast broadband coverage from its current level of more than 90% to 100%. By the end of this year, we will have awarded the contract to deliver it.

We will also work to ensure that Scotland’s economy benefits from strong international connections.

We will continue to implement our Export Plan – recruiting new in-market specialists for our enterprise agencies, working with Chambers of Commerce to deliver more trade missions and encouraging experienced exporters to act as mentors for newer companies.

Last year, Scotland’s goods exports increased by almost 13% - we are determined to see that figure grow even further.

I can also announce today that we will launch a new Foreign Direct Investment plan to attract new investment in key sectors of our economy.

The plan will also enable us to offer support to start-ups specialising in technology or low-carbon industries anywhere in the world, if they choose to relocate to Scotland.

We will also continue to pursue a balanced and progressive approach to taxation.

We have already ensured that the majority of people in Scotland pay less income tax than elsewhere in the UK, while those who can afford to pay proportionately more.

We have ensured that across all transactions we have the most competitive rates in the UK for non-domestic Land and Buildings Transaction Tax – helping to make Scotland a more attractive location for potential investors.

And for residential LBTT, 80% have paid no tax at all or less than they would have done under Stamp duty rates. Our relief for first-time buyers has helped almost 8,000 people in the last year alone.

Full details of our tax plans for the year ahead will be set out as part of the Budget Bill process.

However, I can confirm that in the year ahead we will consult on, and introduce, legislation to give councils the power to apply a transient visitor levy – often called a tourist tax. This will enable local authorities to introduce such a levy if they consider it right in their local circumstances. It is a further example of our commitment to devolve more power to local councils.

Our approach to taxation is intended to encourage business investment and economic growth, and provide us with the resources we need to fund world-class public services.

Next August, we will deliver one of the defining commitments of the current parliamentary session - around 80,000 families in Scotland will start to benefit from our expansion of early years education and childcare.

All three and four year olds, and all two year olds from poorer families, will be eligible for 30 hours a week of free early learning and childcare during the school year.

That represents a total investment of more than £900 million pounds each year in giving our children the very best possible start in life.

And it will save parents up to £4500 per child every year.

We will continue our work to close the attainment gap in schools and raise standards for all.

We are currently investing more than £180 million in the Attainment Fund.

To allow schools to plan ahead, I can confirm today that we will continue the Fund until at least March 2022.

We will also provide further support for headteachers in the year ahead, and we will start to deliver the recommendations of the Independent Panel on Career Pathways for Teachers.

I can also announce today that we will make an additional £15m available this year to improve the experience of children who have additional support needs, and their families.

And we will shortly announce the first set of schools to be built through our new £1 billion school investment programme.

As the Deputy First Minister confirmed earlier, a priority of that new programme will be to work with Fife Council to rebuild Woodmill High in Dunfermline as quickly as possible after it was so badly damaged by fire last week.

As well as investing in childcare and schools, we will continue to invest in our colleges and universities.

In the next year, we aim to deliver 30,000 modern apprenticeship starts, meeting the commitment we made in 2016.

And we will continue to widen access to university – building on the progress we have seen in recent years. To support this, we will increase our investment in bursary support for eligible students in both higher and further education.

The Independent Care Review will report early next year. I have been clear, though, that we should not delay making changes now that will help level the playing field for care experienced young people.

I am therefore announcing a further package of commitments today - as a down payment on the longer term changes that the review is likely to recommend.

For example, I can confirm that in the coming year we will:

- remove dental charges for care experienced people between the ages of 18 and 26;

- ensure access to discretionary housing payments for care experienced young people in receipt of a qualifying benefit;

- extend entitlement to early learning and childcare provision to 2 year olds with a care experienced parent;

- create a statutory presumption in favour of siblings in care being placed together where it is in their best interests;

- and from the start of the 2020/21 academic year, we will remove the age cap of 26 for access to the care experienced student bursary.

Children and young people who grow up in the care of the state deserve to be loved and supported to reach their full potential. I am determined that we will live up to that.

Alongside our investment in education and services for young people, the programme for government again provides record levels of support for our precious NHS.

Last year, we set out a major package of investment in mental health services.

We will continue to deliver better support for new mothers who experience mental health problems.

And we will meet our pledge to provide an additional 800 mental health professionals by March 2022 in settings such as hospitals, GP surgeries and prisons.

The first tranche of the 350 counsellors that we committed to last year will be working in our secondary schools in this school year. I can confirm that they will all be in place by this time next year.

This year, working with COSLA, we will implement our plans for a community wellbeing service across Scotland, supported by £17 million of additional funding over the next two years.

This service will focus initially on people aged between 5 and 24 - though we will also begin to consider how it can be extended in future to people of all ages.

This is an important investment in the wellbeing and happiness of our young people, which will bring both short-term and long-term benefits for our society.

We will continue to direct resources to primary care – increasing the number of GPs entering training, investing in general practice nursing, and supporting the recruitment of more link workers, paramedics and pharmacists. By 2021, this additional investment will total £500 million a year.

We will invest more than £100m over the next year to implement the Waiting Times Improvement Plan.

We are also continuing to invest in better facilities for elective procedures such as hip replacements. Construction will start on major new centres for elective treatment in Livingston, Inverness and Aberdeen.

We will also ensure that our accident and emergency services – which for the last four years have been the best performing anywhere in the UK – continue to be world class. We have opened Major Trauma Centres in Aberdeen and Dundee. In the next year, work will progress on new centres in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

In light of the situation with the new children’s hospital in Edinburgh - which the Health Secretary will provide a full statement on next week - I can also confirm that we will establish a new body to oversee NHS infrastructure developments.

We will also work with COSLA to increase the effectiveness of health and social care integration.

And we will continue to fund the implementation of Frank’s Law, which ensures that anyone who needs personal care has access to it without charge, regardless of age.

Alongside these improvements to health and care services, we are taking steps to help people lead healthier lives.

Two years ago, I announced an additional £20 million a year to reduce the harm caused by drugs in our society.

The drug death statistics published over the summer reinforced the scale and urgency of that task. The situation we face is a public health emergency and our response must recognise that.

I am therefore announcing additional investment of £10 million in each of the next two years.

This extra funding will help the Drug Deaths Taskforce support new and existing projects and test different approaches. It will also help to improve the provision of Opiate Substitute Therapy. A new Inclusive Scotland Fund will involve people who have experience of severe multiple disadvantages in developing approaches to improve outcomes and save lives.

At the moment, UK legislation prevents us from introducing the medically supervised overdose prevention facilities that experts say would make a difference.

We will continue to seek the powers we need to take this action, and I call again on the UK Government to accede to that request, and we will also consult on wider reforms to drugs law so that the Scottish Parliament is ready to act when we have the power to do so.

We will also take action on other public health issues. Active Scotland is promoting healthier lifestyles, for example by increasing support for Community Sports Hubs in deprived communities.

In addition, by autumn of next year we will have made improvements to school meals. We will set maximum limits for the consumption of red processed meat; increase the amount of fruit and vegetables served; reduce the amount of sugar available; and encourage the use of fresh local produce.

That is in line with the aspirations of the Good Food Nation Bill, which will be introduced this year. Scotland’s international reputation for quality food and drink isn’t always reflected in our diet – the Good Food Nation Bill will provide a statutory framework for our efforts to promote healthier and more sustainable local produce.

We are also continuing our work to restrict the promotion and marketing of food and drink high in fat, sugar or salt and will bring forward a Bill on Restricting Foods Promotions in next year’s legislative programme.

In addition to our investment in education and health, we will also support the cultural sector. I can confirm that we will publish our new culture strategy later this year.

We will also take further steps to tackle poverty in our country. We invested an estimated £1.4 billion last year in support for low income households.

That includes almost £100 million to protect people from the impact of UK welfare cuts.

Scotland is currently the only part of the UK to have statutory targets for reducing child poverty.

To help meet those targets, we will introduce legislation for a new Scottish Child Payment of £10 a week.

I am very pleased to announce today that we plan to make the first payments to eligible families with children under the age of 6 by Christmas next year - ahead of the schedule we set out before recess.

All eligible families with children under the age of 16 will receive payments by the end of 2022.

This investment will provide more than £500 a year per child for the families who need it most.

We estimate that, when it is delivered in full, the new Child Payment will lift 30,000 children out of poverty.

Anti-poverty campaigners have described it as ‘game-changing’ and I think they are right to do so.

The Child Payment will be delivered by the Scottish Social Security Agency. In its first year of operation, the Agency has supported more than 90,000 people through the Best Start Grant, Best Start Foods and the Carer Allowance Supplement.

I can confirm that later this month, the first Funeral Support Payments will be made to help families on lower incomes struggling with funeral costs.

Later this autumn, young carers will start to receive £300 a year through the Young Carer Grant.

And I can confirm today that from Spring next year, assuming we get the cooperation we need from the UK government, young people will start to receive the Job Start Payment – a new payment to help around 5000 young people with expenses such as travel costs and new clothing when they return to work after a period of unemployment.

And in summer next year, we will introduce Disability Assistance for Children and Young People.

These are all further steps towards establishing a social security system based on the principles of fairness, dignity and respect, and it couldn’t be in sharper contrast to the one operated at Westminster.

That basic commitment to social justice must also underpin our approach to homelessness and housing.

We are in the first year of a three year investment – totalling more than £32 million - in our Rapid Rehousing and Housing first Programmes. These will support hundreds of people in the coming year.

In addition, we will launch a £4.5 million fund this year for third sector organisations involved in tackling homelessness. It will enable them to improve and in some cases transform the services they provide.

Over this parliament, we will invest more than £3.3 billion in affordable housing. Indeed, I can announce today that we are firmly on course to meet our target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes, including 35,000 for social rent.

I am also delighted to confirm that in December this year we will launch a new £150 million national pilot scheme to provide first time house buyers with up to £25,000 towards their deposits.

This Programme for Government also includes important measures to protect our communities, and strengthen human rights.

We will support our fire and rescue service, and protect the police budget. Among other things, this support will enable police officers to spend more time in their communities through the use of mobile technology.

We will provide further protection to service animals by implementing “Finn’s Law” as part of our Animal Health and Welfare Bill.

We have significantly increased capital spending to modernise our prison estate.

And having established the Victims Taskforce last year, we will continue to put victims at the heart of the justice system – for example by investing in facilities for child witnesses to give pre-recorded evidence.

We will also introduce a Forensic Medical Services Bill to improve services for victims of sexual offences. This is an important part of our ongoing work to ensure that these victims receive better support, and that their cases are handled more effectively by the justice and healthcare systems.

We will make other important improvements to the criminal and civil law.

A new Hate Crime Bill will consolidate and update existing hate crime legislation. Indeed, the vital importance of tackling hate crimes - including those prompted by religious and racial hatreds - was underlined by the unacceptable sectarian disorder that took place on the streets of Govan last Friday night.

We will also introduce a Redress Bill for survivors of in-care abuse, setting out how financial redress can be paid to survivors of historic child abuse who were in care in Scotland.

The Defamation and Malicious Publications Bill will modernise the law in this area. It will balance the protection of people’s reputations with the important principle of free expression.

And we will introduce a Civil Partnership Bill, enabling mixed sex couples to enter into civil partnerships.

The Scottish Government will continue to take steps to strengthen human rights and promote equality.

We will hold our next race equality conference early next year.

We will implement key recommendations of the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls – for example by establishing a new collaborative to promote gender equality across Scottish public life. And we will continue our work to tackle the gender pay gap.

We will also work to advance Scotland’s reputation as one of the most progressive countries in Europe for LGBTI equality.

As part of this, I can confirm that we will consult on the details of draft legislation to bring Scotland’s process of gender recognition into line with international best practice.

In addition, although legislation for this does not feature in this year’s programme, I can reaffirm our commitment that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child will be incorporated into Scots law before the end of this parliamentary session.

The National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership will continue its work to develop a new statutory framework for safeguarding human rights in Scotland.

As I said at the outset, we also have to prepare for the possibility of Brexit.

We will work with others to try to block a no-deal Brexit - and to prevent Scotland being removed from the EU at all.

But we have to plan for all eventualities.

This year’s legislative programme includes two measures which are directly linked to Brexit.

The Rural Support Bill will enable us to modify elements of retained EU law which relate to the Common Agricultural Policy. It will also provide us with new powers for the collection of agricultural data. These powers will be needed if Scotland has to leave the EU, since we would seek to simplify and improve CAP legislation.

The Continuity Bill will allow the Scottish Government and Parliament to align devolved law with EU law.

In particular, it will provide us with the power to keep pace with changes to regulations and standards which are subsequently made by the EU. By doing so, it will send a clear signal about Scotland’s desire and our ability to rejoin the European Union.

Alongside these crucial legislative steps, we will continue to plan for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit – with a focus on ensuring continuity of medicine and food supplies, and providing reassurance and support for EU citizens.

As long as no deal remains a risk, we will do everything we can to ensure that Scotland is as prepared as we can be. We will be honest about the inability to prevent all of the harm that a catastrophic no-deal Brexit would inflict.

Presiding Officer, it is also worth making the point that these measures, although vital, are about mitigation – about making UK Government decisions less damaging than they might otherwise be.

But mitigating bad Westminster decisions should not be what this Parliament is about.

We should be focussing all of our energies on the positive decisions that will secure the best future for our country.

The opportunity to choose that better, more hopeful future as an independent country is one that Scotland deserves. And this government is determined to offer it.

Presiding Officer,

This Programme sets out how this Government will get on with the job of building a better country. It puts people’s health, prosperity and wellbeing at its heart.

By this time next year, 80,000 families will be benefitting from more than 1000 hours of free childcare.

We will have delivered 30,000 modern apprenticeship starts.

We will be even further on the way to delivering 50,000 affordable homes.

We will have introduced a further four social security payments.

We will have established a Scottish National Investment Bank.

And we will have confirmed our global leadership in the fight against climate change.

This programme sets out actions for the next 12 months which will make a difference for years to come. It details measures which can help make our country the best in the world in which to grow up, learn, work and live. It meets the challenges of the future, while staying true to our enduring values. I commend it to parliament.