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Programme for Government:

What can we expect?

Laura MacLaughlin

As recess draws to a close, thoughts inevitably turn to the next Legislative Statement. So what can we expect, and when?

Assuming the timeline established in previous years will be followed, we expect the Programme for Government on the first Tuesday of the session, 6th September. The First Minister will likely deliver the statement after Topical Questions, followed by responses from Party leaders and an open debate, split over two days. 

Bills we can expect
We already know from the SNP Manifesto that the Scottish Government intends to use this Parliamentary session to bring forward a Warm Homes Bill, a Climate Change Bill, an Inshore Fisheries Bill, a Good Food Nation Bill, a Circular Economy & Zero Waste Bill, a Transport Bill and a Seatbelts Bill

In fact, consultation has already taken place on a number of possible bills identified in the manifesto, including a Scottish Social Security Bill, the anticipated Islands Bill, a Wild Fisheries Bill and a potential Child Poverty Bill.

The SNP has also set out its intention to create a new domestic abuse criminal offence, consult on and introduce a bill to devolve local authority functions to communities, modernise crofting law, review small holding legislation, review the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and consider the findings of Lord Bonomy’s review of hunting with dogs’ legislation.

It is likely that the Government will bring forward a Planning Reform Bill in early 2017 after Scottish Ministers published their response to the report of the independent planning review panel in July.

Outwith the manifesto, the Scottish Government has said it will take forward a new bill to address the issues raised by the Footway Parking and Double Parking (Scotland) Bill, while Nicola Sturgeon has said her LGBTI priorities for a new Scottish Government would include reforms to gender recognition laws. 

Elsewhere the Greens included a pledge to introduce a Gender Equality Bill in their manifesto, along with legislation to make Civil Partnerships available to all couples on an equal footing with marriage.

Scottish Labour’s manifesto indicated that the party will continue to pursue a Transplant Bill after Anne McTaggart’s Bill fell in February 59 votes to 56 following the Stage 1 debate. The Liberal Democrats also pledged to include a Bill for an opt-out system of organ donation in the first legislative programme.

Other developments to look out for
Legislation to create a unified consumer body and develop a Consumer and Competition Strategy has been signposted, along with the creation of Land Scotland, a Scottish Social Security Agency and the completion of the devolution of the Forestry Commission.

A bill on legal reform has been floated, with Sheriff Bowen recommending that the Law Society of Scotland client protection fund “be able to compensate victims in situations of prima facie fraud, coming into line with English practice, and be renamed a compensation fund”. The Law Society has said widening its scope will require legislative change and have “been in discussion with Scottish Ministers in the hope time can be found in the next term of the Scottish Parliament for a new Bill to allow for a number of legal reforms”.

Potential new appointments include a Commissioner for Fair Access to provide leadership in the education sector and a Scottish STEM ambassador.

Elsewhere new strategies have been proposed for cancer, child and adolescent health and well-being, diet & obesity, social isolation, family justice modernisation, human trafficking & exploitation and culture. While a refresh is anticipated for Community Planning Partnerships, out-of-hours primary care, student funding and loan repayments, employment tribunal fees, nutritional legislative frameworks for schools, compulsory sales orders legislation, the Switched On Scotland Electric Vehicle Roadmap and the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland.

Decision Time
Of course the question stands, will the Government get what it wants? At the time of manifesto development and right up to the election few people anticipated that the SNP would not have a comfortable majority. So while initially the manifesto may have read like a draft legislative programme, the 63/65 split means that all votes matter and Decision Time becomes less of a foregone conclusion.

Newsdirect will be covering the Legislative Statement and subsequent developments for our clients. If you are interested in how our bespoke coverage, including comprehensive legislative tracking, can support your organisation, please get in touch with the team.

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