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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Meeting of the Parliament 04 September 2018

Agenda: Time for Reflection, One Minute’s Silence, Business Motion, Topical Question Time, Programme for Government 2018-19, Programme for Government 2018-19, Junior Minister, Parliamentary Bureau Motions, Decision Time, European Championships 2018


Programme for Government 2018-19

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh)

The next item of business is a statement by Nicola Sturgeon on the Scottish Government’s programme for government. As the First Minister’s statement will be followed by a debate, there should be no interventions or interruptions.


The First Minister (Nicola Sturgeon)

Last year’s programme for government set us on a path to addressing the big challenges that are 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 that we want to be: a nation that leads the world in technological innovation and stays true to enduring values of social justice; a country that is proud of its history and achievements but which is equipping itself to seize the opportunities of the future; and a society that is determined to remain open, inclusive and welcoming in the face of rising forces of intolerance, isolation and protectionism.

Today’s programme for government flows from that vision and builds on the progress of the past year and, indeed, the past decade. It ensures that we remain focused on delivering for today and investing for tomorrow. It continues and accelerates the major reforms that are under way in our health, education and justice systems, which are underpinned 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.

The programme for government does all of that, of course, in the shadow of Brexit. We simply cannot ignore Brexit or the United Kingdom Government’s shamefully shambolic handling of the negotiations. For our part, we will continue to make the case for European Union membership. Short of that, we will press the UK Government to remain in the single market and the customs union. 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.

As was seen 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. 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 per cent, the fastest growth of any UK nation. Youth and women’s unemployment is lower than in the UK as a whole. In the last decade, Scotland has significantly narrowed our productivity gap with the rest of the UK.

Those are strong foundations. But we must intensify our efforts now 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. First, 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 of 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 Strategic Board for Enterprise and Skills. Drawing on its recommendations, we will publish a new 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. 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 funding. 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 that 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 to traffic. The road will be fully open by the end of the year. 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 we will continue our on-going 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. 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 per cent increase in seating capacity and 200 new services will operate in eastern and central Scotland. We will take forward plans to enable a public sector bid for the next ScotRail franchise.

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 per cent of properties across Scotland. I can confirm today that the three main contracts for our reaching 100 per cent 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. 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 that 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 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 that we want to create here in Scotland, and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work 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 per cent of gross domestic product, which is equivalent to an additional £1.5 billion a year. I can announce today that we will aim to close that gap by the end of the next session of Parliament. The pledge that 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 that investment in our hospitals, schools, houses, transport, low-carbon technology and digital connections will be around £7 billion higher than our current spending projections.

The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity will set out in the coming months the detail of how we will deliver on that 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 to secure both the investment that we need and best value for the taxpayer. I hope that 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 Scottish Development International representation on mainland Europe and establishing new Scottish Government offices in Dublin and Berlin. Our new Paris and Ottawa offices will be 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 per cent 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 to 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 that are looking to enter new markets. I can confirm that that 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.

We must also continue to retain and attract talent. We want to make clear that Scotland remains an open, inclusive and outward-looking nation, so let me make this 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 who are already making a contribution to our country should have to pay to retain rights that 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. Those actions will provide practical help. I hope that they will also send the 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 is ensuring that growth is environmentally sustainable. Many of our actions will help us to meet the targets set out in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) 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 per cent. 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 intention to move towards net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide, as soon as we credibly can.

It is worth being clear about the scale of our ambition. The targets in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Bill for 2020, 2030 and 2040 are, without exception, the most stringent statutory targets anywhere in the world. 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. 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 (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) 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. We will also ask the expert panel on environmental charges to recommend other actions to reduce plastic pollution.

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

We intend to establish an animal welfare commission to ensure that high standards of welfare are maintained for domesticated and wild animals. I can announce today that, by the end of the current parliamentary session, we will 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 create a fairer country. This year is Scotland’s year of young people—a celebration of the contribution that children and young people make to our society. However, the most important thing that any Government can do is make sure that all 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 to 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 that commitment will continue in the year ahead, with almost 2,000 people starting on early learning and childcare apprenticeships, 1,500 additional college places, and 400 extra graduate level places. To ensure the quality of our early learning and childcare provision, a new 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 Government’s overriding mission. Progress is being made, but our school reforms will accelerate in the coming year. I can confirm today that, by the end of this year, a new headteachers’ charter, backed by new national guidance, will be published. It 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. In this academic year, we will commit £10 million to enhance the high-quality practical support and expertise that is available to teachers through the regional improvement collaboratives and Education Scotland.

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 that is equivalent to the real living wage.

Extensive research shows that adverse childhood experiences 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 on supporting the resilience of children and adults to overcome childhood adversity.

Finally, I said last year that we would consider how to further embed the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law and policy, including the option of incorporation. Having now carefully considered that matter, I can announce today that we will incorporate the principles of the UN convention into Scots law. We will work with partners and the Parliament to do that 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 (Scotland) Act 2017 sets 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 targets.

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 among 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 make these announcements today.

First, 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. In the coming year, we will provide enhanced assistance for those on lower incomes who are struggling with funeral costs.

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.

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 Department for Work and Pensions 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. 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 to eradicate rough sleeping. Last year, we established the homelessness and rough sleeping action group. It has already made its recommendations, and some have already been 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 that sets 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, which will ensure that a homeless individual or household is moved directly into their own settled accommodation rather than going 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 more than a quarter—from £590 million to more than £750 million. Over the current parliamentary session, we will ensure that more than 50,000 affordable homes are delivered, including at least 35,000 for social rent. Within that, we will work with councils and house builders 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, in order 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 (Scotland) 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 vital to our partnership with local government. The programme for government reaffirms our commitment to a strong partnership between national and local government. That is reflected in our work with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on taking forward the local governance review to strengthen local decision making. I also confirm today that we will extend the community land fund until 2021 in order to enable more community land purchases, and that we will 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 Victoria and Albert museum in Dundee will open to the public. It is a stunning reminder of the potential of culture both to regenerate and to bring joy to communities across the country. Before the end of the year, we will publish a new national culture strategy that will demonstrate the intrinsic value that 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 will make Scotland one of the first countries in the world to develop a strategy to address an issue that is of growing importance around the world.

By March 2019, we will publish an older people’s framework that will set out how we will achieve better outcomes in terms of services for older people, as well as in terms of their participation in the labour market and engagement in their local communities.

The two final areas that I want to talk about 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 per cent of people in Scotland rate their own neighbourhood as being fairly good or very good. By any reasonable measure, that is a significant record of achievement, but we are determined to improve on it.

We will protect the Police Scotland revenue budget in real terms throughout the current parliamentary session. In addition, £31 million will be provided for police reform in this financial year, which will help the police to invest in new technology and to work more effectively with partners. The Scottish Fire and Rescue 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 rural areas.

As we reform the justice system, it remains vital that we improve the support that we give to the victims of crime. We are already taking important steps to do that through, for example, the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill, which we introduced last year. This year, we are determined to go even further. I announce today a major package of reforms that will better protect victims in the criminal justice system. First, we will work with Victim Support Scotland to reduce and, where possible, to 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 for which the victim has the right to make an impact statement, in which they set 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 that are available to victims and families when prisoners are released from prison, and we will consult on proposals to increase the transparency of the parole system. We will also establish a new support service to provide more and better help to families who have been bereaved by murder or culpable homicide.

We will also continue to improve the support that is available to victims of rape and sexual assault. Over the summer, we announced additional funding of £1.1 million to enable sexual offence trials to be brought to court as quickly as possible. I announce that we will make available a further £2 million over three years to speed up access to support for people who are affected by rape or sexual assault. Of that additional funding, £1.5 million will go to rape crisis centres, starting next month, and the remainder will be 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 will be a priority for the national health service, and will be provided consistently across Scotland. We intend to introduce legislation on that later in this parliamentary session.

We will continue to work to reduce and eliminate domestic abuse. The legislation that Parliament has already passed to make coercive or controlling behaviours illegal will come into force this year. I confirm that we will consult on the introduction of new protective orders that would 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 to ensure that children’s best interests are central to consideration of such cases.

Finally, we will introduce a female genital mutilation bill to strengthen the protection that is provided to women and girls.

We will take a range of other important measures 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 of three to 12 months once additional safeguards are in place for domestic abuse victims.

In addition, legislation for new drug-driving limits, which will cover 17 different drug types, will be introduced and come into force in 2019. Together with Scotland’s lower drink-driving limit, that will ensure that 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 of data including fingerprints and DNA samples. It will take forward the recommendations of the independent advisory group and will modernise the law in a policy area that is of huge importance to the justice system.

We will also 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 public. In the year ahead, we will also consult on reforms to the law of defamation with a view to introducing legislation later in this parliamentary session.

As a Parliament and, indeed, a country, we are 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. Therefore, I 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 that will permit National Records of Scotland to ask questions on sexual orientation and transgender status in future censuses.

The final area about which I want to talk is health. Last week’s in-patient survey results show that satisfaction with our national health service remains at a high level. Our accident and emergency facilities have been the best performing in the UK for the past three years. Such outcomes are a tribute to the expertise, dedication and compassion of NHS staff across the country. Therefore, it is absolutely right that NHS staff will receive a minimum pay rise of 9 per cent over the next three years.

Last year, we introduced two important health bills that are due to come into force next year: the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill will implement an opt-out system for organ donation, and the Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill will ensure that 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 involves 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 the way in which care is delivered, and we will take further action to improve population health. Over the next year, we will take forward work to implement the new general practitioner contract, support integration of healthcare and social care and invest a higher proportion of the health budget in primary, community and social care. From next year, we will implement Frank’s law, thereby extending free personal care to eligible under-65-year-olds.

We will continue to champion a preventative approach to Scotland’s public health challenges. In May, we became the first country in the world to introduce minimum alcohol pricing. This year, we will take forward plans to reduce childhood obesity. Among other measures, we will consult on restricting promotion and marketing of food and drink that is high in fat, sugar or salt.

Preventing ill health and building up community services are essential to ensuring a health service that is fit for the future—but so, too, is ensuring that acute services can meet the demands that are 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 therefore announce today that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport will, later this month, publish a waiting times improvement plan that will set out a range of short-term and medium-term actions to improve waiting times performance substantially and sustainably.

Part of the longer-term plan to meet waiting time targets on a sustainable basis is the creation, over this session of Parliament, of five new elective treatment centres. I therefore confirm that work on the new west of Scotland centre at the Golden Jubilee hospital will start in the early part of next year, and that work on the north of Scotland centre at Raigmore hospital in Inverness will be under way by the middle of next year. I also confirm 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, 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 appropriately. That means doing more to support positive mental health and to prevent ill health. It means delivering greater provision of mental health support in communities, including schools, and it means ensuring that people who experience 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 £0.25 billion of additional investment, starting this year and progressively increasing over the subsequent four years. The Minister for Mental Health will set out full details shortly, but I will cover some of the key elements now.

First, we will develop a stronger network of care and support for the one in five new mothers—around 11,000 a year—who experiences mental health problems during and after pregnancy. That will include greater access to counselling for those who experience mild symptoms, and an expansion of specialist services for those with moderate or more severe illness.

Secondly, we will use technology to extend access for adults to a range of support services. That will include improvements to the NHS24 breathing space service, extension of online access to cognitive behavioural therapy, improvement of access to psychological assessment and therapy in rural areas, and strengthening of the handling of mental health calls to the 111 service.

However, most of our additional investment will support improvements in provision of child and adolescent mental health services. The task force on children and young people’s mental health will report in the autumn, but based on the early discussions that have been held by its chair, Dr Dame Denise Coia, we are committing to a range of actions now. We will invest £60 million in additional school nursing and counselling services, which 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 five-year-olds to 24-year-olds, which will offer 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.

As I said a moment ago, more detail will be published shortly, but I hope that the package that 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 they do physical wellbeing.

The forthcoming budget bill will complete and, indeed, underpin our legislative programme for the coming year. The 12 bills that we will introduce in the coming years of the session are 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 universities. We will pay the first benefits in Scotland’s new social security system, and take further action to tackle poverty and inequality. We will help our NHS to adapt to an ageing population and begin a transformation of mental health services. We will tackle major public health challenges, legislate for a Scottish national investment bank, invest for the future and support more businesses to sell their goods across the globe. We will support the transition to a low-carbon economy and do everything that we possibly can to protect our economy from Brexit, in order to put Scotland on the right track for the future.

I commend the programme for government to Parliament. [Applause.]