Working for Scotland: the government's programme for Scotland 2012-13
First Minster Alex Salmond
September 4, 2012
Presiding Officer, the programme that I am about to outline is the programme of a Government which is ambitious for Scotland.
We are using our current powers to the full to help businesses and families. And we are committed to expanding this Parliament’s powers so that we can take full responsibility for creating a wealthier and fairer nation.
In the autumn of 2014, people in Scotland will choose whether they want this nation to be independent. In my view, one of the best arguments for independence is that this national Parliament – as its record shows – is the one which is best placed to share their values, reflect their priorities and therefore legislate in their best interests.
Supporting jobs and growth
That is at the core of the argument that I will make this afternoon and the programme I will announce. I want to start by focusing on jobs and growth – both because they are our top priority, and because economic policy shows so clearly the constraints of Scotland’s current constitutional position.
The figures show that the Scottish Government is doing all that we can to support jobs in these tough economic times. The latest labour market statistics show that Scotland is leading the UK on all three headline indicators. Our unemployment and economic inactivity rates are now lower - and our employment rate is higher - than the UK average.
Figures also suggest that the decline in economic output has been significantly smaller in Scotland than in the rest of the UK – 0.2% over 6 months here, compared to 0.7% across the UK in the last period for which there is comparable data.
However the very fact that there has been a contraction in output here underlines the need for urgent action. Any plan to support growth at the present time should focus on immediate public sector capital investment – the construction sector is suffering most at present.
Sometimes in this chamber, people claim that capital budgets available to the Scottish Government and this parliament have been increased. But these have only been adjustments to the plans set out by Alistair Darling who we will remember set out spending cuts “deeper and tougher” than Margaret Thatcher. In real terms, the capital budget of the Scottish Government today is 30% lower than it was in 2009.
I have written 5 times now asking the Prime Minister to provide additional funding for “shovel ready” capital projects across the country. These are projects which would improve our long-term productivity while helping to promote economic recovery now.
No extra funding has been forthcoming, despite the fact that the first letter to the Prime Minister in March was written at his specific request.
The weekend papers seemed to suggest something of a rethink by the coalition about the importance of capital spending. So let me repeat now – whatever plans there are for the future, whatever infrastructure may or may not be built, the minimum required right now is – this year - £5 billion for the UK and £400m for Scotland. There has never been an economic recovery without a recovery in the construction sector.
In the absence of this additional funding, we have had to bring forward as much capital spending as our current powers allow.
In 2008-09 and 2009-10 we brought forward more than £300 million - supporting 5,000 jobs. This year, in June, John Swinney announced he was implementing a £105 million capital spending package.
Over this year and the next two, we will switch over £700m of spending from resource to capital and capital receipts. In addition, our £2.5 billion non-profit distributing investment pipeline now has four major projects in procurement; including new colleges for Inverness, Glasgow and Kilmarnock as well as the improvements to the central Scotland motorway network.
This focus on capital investment, this urgent focus is part of a wider programme of support for businesses and economic growth sectors.
We have maintained the most competitive business taxation environment anywhere in the UK – 60% of business premises – more than 120,000 business premises - receive relief on business rates.
Our enterprise agencies have been notably effective. Last year, more than 7,000 planned jobs were attracted here, together with almost £350m of investment.
Ernst and Young’s latest business attractiveness survey shows that Scotland is the number one ranked part of these islands – comfortably ahead even of London – for attracting jobs through inward investment.
The enterprise agencies are also helping Scottish companies to market themselves overseas – food and drink exports increased by almost 20% last year to a record £5.4 billion.
And our low carbon sector continues to go from strength to strength. The renewable energy industry now employs 11,000 people and has seen £2.8 billion of investment since 2008.
The Institute of Public Policy Research report published last weekend showed unequivocally the importance of wind power in providing a stable, secure and economic source of renewable energy. Wave and tidal power will join it. Scotland has massive resources in all three.
In the last fortnight, in Thurso and Renfrew, I have met young engineering trainees and apprentices being equipped with the skills they need for the jobs of the future. In communities the length and breadth of the country - from Machrihanish in Argyll to Methil in Fife; from Eday on Orkney to the Forth, Tay and the Clyde; the renewable energy revolution is beginning. And with it we are seeing the prospect of the reindustrialisation of Scotland.
Tomorrow there will be a ministerial visit to Ravenscraig. On the site which is emblematic of Scotland’s de-industrialisation in the 1980s and 1990s, a further part of our low carbon future is taking shape. BRE is developing a housing innovation showcase at Ravenscraig for the technologies which will be crucial to our housing sector, and the low carbon economy, in the decades to come. Ravenscraig’s regeneration is further evidence of our determination that all communities in Scotland – including those most affected by industrial decline – will benefit from our low carbon future.
We are also promoting the economics of security and equity; recognising that confidence among ordinary households – the confidence to plan and spend – is absolutely central to any lasting economic recovery.
We have helped to sustain demand by protecting household budgets in tough times - through policies such as free education, prescriptions, concessionary travel and frozen council tax bills.
While have promoted a social wage for ordinary households, the UK Government’s last budget proposed anti-social tax cuts for a minority. One half of the coalition now wants to reverse that policy, safe in the knowledge that the other half won’t let them. That is what passes for joined up government at Westminster.
We promote a living wage to support economic justice. We have a policy of no compulsory redundancies in the Scottish Government and the health service – this doesn’t mean that there won’t be a reduction in numbers, but it does give people more security in planning for the future.
That focus on growth will continue in the next Parliamentary year. It is at the heart of many of the bills that we will introduce.
The Budget Bill will protect capital spending as far as possible. It will prioritise resources to support our core purpose - promoting opportunities for all through sustainable economic growth. In addition to the Draft Budget, a progress report on the Government Economic Strategy will be published in the next few weeks.
Our Bankruptcy Bill will modernise our bankruptcy laws, ensuring that they are fair for both creditors and debtors.
We will introduce two Bills – the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax Bill and the Landfill Tax Bill - to set out how those taxes will operate, and to ensure that they meet Scotland’s needs, once this Parliament assumes responsibility for them in 2015.
Our Better Regulation Bill will protect our people and our environment while also helping businesses to flourish and create jobs.
It is essential at any time – but especially in tough times - that public sector procurement – which is worth more than £9 billion annually – brings the maximum possible public benefit. Already, 45% of the value of Scotland’s current procurement spending goes to small and medium sized businesses, and more than 75% of the contracts awarded by Public Contracts Scotland last year went to companies based in Scotland.
The Procurement Reform Bill will build on that record. It will ensure that community benefit clauses are included in all new major public sector contracts, and that those receiving such contracts make binding commitments to training and apprenticeships.
As part of that emphasis on managing public sector spending effectively, the Forth Estuary Transport Authority Bill will enable us to adopt the most cost-effective approach to managing and maintaining the existing Forth Road Bridge and the new Forth Replacement Crossing.
That new crossing is Scotland’s biggest engineering project in a generation. It already directly employing 1100 people and many more people are employed in the 300 Scottish firms now working in the contracting and supply chain for the project.
That record demonstrates clearly that this Parliament is exercising its current economic powers wisely.
However without full responsibility for the economy we will continue to be constrained by the choices – frequently, at present, disastrous choices – being made by Westminster.
With independence, we would have the fiscal powers needed to bring forward capital spending, promote growth sectors of the economy, and encourage even more businesses to invest or start up in Scotland.
We would also be able to take advantage of Scotland’s comparatively strong financial position. In the five years to 2010-11– the most recent GERS figures – Scotland was in a relatively stronger current budget position than the UK as a whole to the tune of £8.6 billion - £1,600 per person – including by £2.7 billion, or more than £500 per person, in 2010-11.
In other words, were we an independent country, these resources over that period could have been applied to either increase spending, reduce taxation, bear down on borrowing, invest in an oil fund, or indeed any combination of these options.
Without access to our own resources, Scotland can do none of these things. That is the point and purpose of the economic choices which independence offers.
That is one reason – just one, but a very important one – why we are introducing a Referendum Bill in this parliamentary year. We believe that only with independence can we have the powers we need to promote jobs and growth.
Earlier this year the Government issued a consultation paper on our proposals for running and regulating the referendum. This sparked a huge response, with over 26,000 replies. These are being analysed by independent researchers, and we will publish the report by next month.
I expect to meet the Prime Minister in the next few weeks to conclude the discussions which our respective ministers have been having over the summer.
However the fact that the response rate to the Scottish Government consultation was almost ten times that of the UK Government's own consultation – which was not subjected to any independent analysis – does underline one significant feature - the people of Scotland recognise that Scotland's referendum should be made here in Scotland.
Independence is crucial to creating a fairer Scotland, as well as a wealthier one.
In this Programme for Government we are continuing to invest in human capital as well as our physical capital.
This Government’s “opportunities for all” initiative has no parallel anywhere else on these islands - guaranteeing a training opportunity to any young person between 16 and 19 who is not in education, employment or training.
During 2011-12, we delivered more than 26,000 modern apprenticeships – every single one of which is linked to a real employment opportunity. The completion rate increased again, to a record 75%. We now have 56% of youngsters employed, compared to a UK average of 50%.
We have retained the vital Educational Maintenance Allowances when the UK Government chose to abolish them.
In the last few days it has become clear that we have a record number of Scottish students at Scottish universities for the coming year, compared to the 25,000 decline in English students able to go to English universities. There has also been an increase in English and international students coming to Scottish universities. All of which is excellent news for the sector and excellent news for Scotland, and a complete vindication of this Government’s policy of re-establishing free education.
Our Post-16 Education Reform Bill will develop a system of education and training which meets the needs of learners and employers, and which helps to drive jobs and growth. Among other measures, it will support college regionalisation, aided by an investment programme which has already transformed Dundee, Aberdeen, Banff and Buchan, Thurso, Langside and Forth Valley colleges; and provide for outcome agreements with our universities as a basis for widening access to all sections of the community.
But we know we need to do more. We have invested £30m to support youth employment in the last year, and have appointed Angela Constance as the first dedicated Minister for Youth Employment anywhere on these islands.
Next week, in partnership with the STUC and others, we will hold a key summit on women’s employment to explore and address specific concerns on that issue.
Our commitment to fairness is also shown in our support for core public services, such as the National Health Service.
A Nottingham University report has said that the management of health service reform in Scotland, with its emphasis on partnership working, “should serve as a role model for the public sector” across the UK.
Our Adult Health and Social Care Integration Bill maintains that emphasis on partnership and collaboration. It will establish the joint accountability of Health Boards and Councils for the delivery of adult health and social care.
We will introduce three significant pieces of legislation to improve the effectiveness of our justice system. The Tribunals Bill will establish a simpler system of tribunals, including a new system for appeals.
The Victims and Witnesses Bill will place victims’ interests at the heart of improvements to the justice system – for example by expanding the protection available to vulnerable witnesses.
And the Criminal Justice Bill will implement the recommendations of the expert reviews led by Lord Carloway, into criminal procedure in general, and Sheriff Principal Bowen, into sheriff and jury procedure – for example by simplifying processes for arresting and questioning suspects, and providing greater protections for vulnerable and child suspects. We are consulting on how to implement Lord Carloway's recommendation to remove the requirement for corroboration in criminal trials.
Lord Carloway is a very distinguished judge and of course the new Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland. The idea that he is operating in anything other than the best interests of Scots law is ridiculous.
In promoting a fairer Scotland, we will legislate for equal rights. Our Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill will enable same-sex couples to get married, and will allow civil partnerships to be registered through a religious ceremony.
The bill will be subject to a conscience vote in this Parliament – certainly among SNP MSPs. It will strike a balance. It will establish the right of same-sex couples to be recognised by the law in the same way as all other married couples. It will also ensure that no church, faith group or indeed individual celebrant will be required to take part in a same sex marriage ceremony, unless they wish to do so. In addition, freedom of speech and conscience will be rigorously upheld. In my view, this is the appropriate way to respect religious and private beliefs, while ensuring equality of treatment before the law.
Children and Young People Bill
The emphasis on growth, and our emphasis on fairness, is based on a desire to allow everyone in Scotland to flourish.
To achieve this, one of the major aims of the Scottish Government is a huge switch to more preventative spending.
In partnership with local government, we have made more than £500m available to three change funds to support early years initiatives, adult social care and to tacke reoffending.
We know that if we can care for adults who need it; if we can reduce reoffending rather than simply dealing with its consequences; and particularly if we can give people the best possible start in life - then we will strengthen our communities, improve the wellbeing of our people and make long term savings.
Focusing on children’s early years is the most fundamental and effective form of early intervention to address poor health, under-employment and harm. It is one of the very best investments any Government in any country or society can ever make – it has the objective of offering each child an equal chance.
Today I can announce we are allocating £18 million from the Early Years Change Fund to create high quality, co-ordinated and accessible family support. I saw the difference such support can make when I visited Dr Bell’s Family Centre in Leith this morning. This funding can make it more widely accessible.
Although we have to face as a Parliament and a society the impact of the coming welfare changes from Westminster as they bear down on hundreds of thousands of people in Scotland these initiatives which I have outlined are good things to do at any time, are going to be essential at the coming time.
In addition, in this Parliamentary year, we will introduce a Children and Young People Bill. That bill will enshrine in law the commitment that all three and four year olds, and all looked-after two year olds, should receive a minimum of 600 hours of early learning and childcare, rather than the current minimum of 475 hours, or the 412 hours that we inherited from the previous administration.
It will place key parts of the Getting It Right For Every Child approach in law. It will promote stable and permanent home environments for children, for example by establishing new rights for kinship carers. And for families across Scotland, it will deliver the best package of early learning and childcare support anywhere across the UK - helping parents – especially women – into work, as well as promoting the wellbeing of children and families.
The bill demonstrates our wider aspirations for the next generation.
- Better early learning and childcare to promote the independence of parents and families.
- Free education to protect the financial independence of our young people.
- An adult care bill and social wage to support the independence and dignity of older Scots.
- Job promotion to enable the economic independence of individuals.
But as well as supporting the independence of families and individuals, we need independence for Scotland the nation.
Presiding officer, over the last decade in my estimation the Scottish Parliament has achieved much – land reform, the ban on smoking in public places, our world-leading climate change legislation.
I also believe that some of the legislation in the last parliamentary year – especially on anti-sectarianism and minimum pricing for alcohol – will come to be seen in the same way; as bold legislation which changed Scotland permanently and for the better.
The contrast between the record of this Parliament and that of Westminster is striking.
- Under the UK Government, entrants to English universities are down this year by 25,000 – in Scotland, admissions of Scottish students to Scottish universities are at record levels.
- Under the UK Government, the national health service in England is being dismantled; in Scotland, under our integrated health service, more than 90% of patients are treated within 18 weeks of referral by a general practitioner, and under the Patients’ Rights Act we are enshrining in law a unique 12 week guarantee for inpatient and day case treatment.
- Under the UK Government, the home secretary - responsible for falling police numbers - had to address the Police Federation in front of a banner which called her cuts “criminal”; in Scotland, Kenny MacAskill – responsible for rising police numbers and record low levels of recorded crime - received a standing ovation from the Scottish Police Federation.
No sane person in this Parliament or elsewhere would want powers over our universities, our health service or our police to be returned to Westminster.
But if we can manage those services more effectively than the UK Government, why shouldn’t we also have control over pensions, control over welfare and our own voice in the world?
Earlier this year, I suggested that an independent Scotland could be a beacon for progressive opinion for the rest of the United Kingdom. The record of achievement of this Parliament demonstrates that potential.
This legislative programme of 15 bills will add to that record. It will lead to the best childcare provision anywhere in the United Kingdom. It uses all of the powers that we currently have to support jobs, growth and opportunities for all. And it paves the way for Scotland’s most important decision in the past 300 years.
It is therefore a historic package of measures.
The record of this Parliament is the clearest possible evidence that the best people to take decisions about the future of Scotland are the people who choose to live and work in our country.
We will give them the choice of independence: responsibility for ourselves as a nation, a voice in the world, and government that reflects the people’s priorities and Scottish values.
Presiding Officer, I commend our Programme for Government to this Parliament and to the people.