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First Minister outlines 2023-2024 Programme for Government

First Minister Humza Yousaf has confirmed new measures to improve childcare in Scotland.

The SNP leader also said he would raise funding for the Scottish Child Payment and improve pay for social care staff.

The announcements were made as part of the programme for government speech, which comes at the start of each new parliamentary year at Holyrood.

Mr Yousaf said the plan was “unashamedly anti-poverty and pro-growth”.

Opposition leaders said it failed to address the major challenges Scotland faces.

There were 14 bills in this year’s programme for government.

However three of them – Education, Housing and the Scottish Aggregates Tax bills – featured in the plans unveiled by former first minister Nicola Sturgeon a year ago.

The new bills include a Cladding Remediation Bill to introduce a levy in Scotland – replicating the UK government’s Building Safety Levy, an Agriculture Bill to create a new framework for rural support and a Land Reform Bill to make land ownership more transparent.

The government will also consult on curbing the sale of disposable vapes, including consulting on an outright ban.
As part of his pro-business pledges, he announced a £15m plan to support innovation and entrepreneurship.

Mr Yousaf told MSPs he would seek a deal with the onshore wind industry to halve the consenting time for new section 36 wind farms.

The government will invest £750m to help provide affordable homes and spend £60m this year on buying empty properties for use as affordable homes, the first minister said.

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Commenting on the Programme for Government, Dr Liz Cameron CBE, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said:

“Is Government on the side of business? That’s the question at the forefront of the business community. There is much in today’s announcement that businesses will welcome, particularly the essential focus on inward investment and exporting, but other areas will leave some sectors questioning whether the First Minister’s priorities are balanced to support economic growth.”

On Economic Growth, Dr Cameron said:

“Given the years of breakdown in the relationship, the First Minister was right to start the critical task of resetting the relationship with business but there is a long journey ahead for both government and business before this is achieved. The key enabler that will help to achieve this is to prioritise the recommendations that will make doing business easier and more profitable. That includes removing and reducing regulation and reducing the upfront cost of doing business. From today’s announcement, we can take solace that the First Minister has moved economic growth further up the agenda but clearer action on reforming the business taxation system and introducing growth incentives are still missing and must be prioritised for the December budget.”

On the Labour Market, Dr Cameron said:

“Businesses will welcome the government prioritising childcare as a way of supporting households and enabling participation in the labour market. Focus must now turn to building the capacity of providers as well as ensuring there are no unintended consequences on availability of funding between private and public providers.

“The recent report published through the Independent Review of the Skills Delivery System highlights the importance of ensuring that reforms enhance and strengthen the role of businesses in the skills system. Business engagement and involvement will be essential if we are to get this right.

“The development of a new funding model for post-school education provision is welcomed for improving lifelong learning, this must be balanced with widening access to training and skills across all pathways.”

 SCC’s full response can be found here.

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