Nicola Sturgeon has told MSPs a draft Bill will be drawn up setting out the timing, terms and question for a new Scottish independence referendum.
It was among the announcements made as part of the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government, which the First Minister outlined today.
Ms Sturgeon said the suppression of Covid-19 would be the priority, adding that a resurgence of the virus would hit the economy hard.
She added: “However, we will not simply hunker down and wait for the storm to pass.
“We can’t afford to.
“We must end our contribution to climate change, improve biodiversity, invest in our infrastructure, make our public services fit for the future, harness the economic and social opportunities of new technology, make homelessness history, and lift children out of poverty.
“So, even amidst the uncertainties of a global pandemic, this is a time to be ambitious.”
Here are the key points from the announcement to parliament.
Ms Sturgeon said that the pandemic could act as “an accelerant” for the ambitions of Scotland.
She outlined the number of changes that had quickly been made to the public sector and economy as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
A digital consulting system for the NHS, the NHS Louisa Jordan which was built at the Scottish Events Campus in Glasgow, rough sleepers being taken off the street and “armies of volunteers and public-sector workers” distributing necessities to the vulnerable.
Ms Sturgeon added: “None of us would have chosen to live through a global pandemic. We will always grieve the lives lost and never forget our separation from loved ones.
“But we are also being reminded, every day, of the resilience of our human spirit, the power of human compassion and the ingenuity of human intellect.
“We must harness all of that for the future.”
Ms Sturgeon said that Brexit strengthened the case for Scotland to become an independent country.
The First Minister said that a Programme for Government in an independent Scotland would outline plans for an extension to the furlough scheme, more money in borrowing, a more progressive immigration system and a universal basic income.
She told MSPs that a new draft Bill will be drawn up setting out the timing and terms for a new independence referendum, as well as the question to be asked to voters if it is given the green light by Westminster.
The First Minister added: “Then, at next year’s election, we will make the case for Scotland to become an independent country and seek a clear endorsement of Scotland’s right to choose our own future.”
Ms Sturgeon said Brexit was “an act of self-sabotage which we do not understand”.
She added: “Nevertheless, Brexit demands that we work in partnership with business, the third and public sectors to make sure Scotland remains an attractive location for inward investment.
“I can therefore announce today that we will publish, before the end of this year – as an accompaniment to our export strategy – a new inward investment plan with the aim of creating 100,000 high-quality jobs over the next decade.”
The First Minister announced plans to investigate the establishment of a national care service, following a “comprehensive, independent review of adult social care”.
She said: “The quality of adult social care is something that matters deeply to us all. This is a moment to be bold and to build a service fit for the future.
“The National Health Service was born out of the tragedy of World War Two.
“Let us resolve that we will build out of this Covid crisis, the lasting and positive legacy of a high quality, national care service.”
Turning to the environment, the First Minister outlined how £1.6 billion of the £2 billion announced last year as part of the Scottish Government’s Green New Deal would be allocated.
Ms Sturgeon said that £100 million will be pumped into a green jobs fund, half of which will be used to help firms grow in low carbon sectors and the other allowing them to take advantage of investment in the low carbon economy.
A further £62 million fund will be used for the transition of oil and gas businesses to low carbon output, with £60 million to support the net zero ambitions of the industrial and manufacturing sectors.
At least £250 million will be invested in peatland restoration, the First Minister said.
She also announced that the Scottish Government will launch the first round of its green investment portfolio, which will market £1 billion of low carbon projects to international investors.
Investment in infrastructure will be at the “core” of the Programme for Government, the First Minister said, with a focus on digital resources.
She said: “The last six months have shown that access to the online world is a modern necessity – every bit as essential as access to electricity.
“It is through technology that many of us have continued to work, learn, access life’s essentials and stay in touch with loved ones.”
As well as improving infrastructure, the First Minister pledged to “eliminate digital exclusion” by expanding Connecting Scotland, an initiative to provide devices and internet access to vulnerable people.
She said: “I can announce that, by the end of 2021, Connecting Scotland will provide an electronic device, unlimited data and two years of digital support and training to 50,000 people who would otherwise be without digital access that the rest of us take for granted.
“This is a massive step and will help us end the digital divide once and for all.”
Ms Sturgeon again called on the UK Government to scrap plans to end the furlough scheme in October.
After welcoming the financial support from the UK Government, the First Minister said an end to the job retention scheme, which has supported more than 900,000 jobs in Scotland, would create “a tsunami of redundancies”.
She said: “I am therefore calling again today on the UK to follow the lead of France and Germany and extend the job retention scheme for a further 12 months – especially for the sectors hardest hit by Covid and with the longest road to recovery.”
The First Minister also announced the £60 million Youth Guarantee, which would see all Scots aged between 16 and 24 get a job, a place in education or a training position.
A further £10 million was announced for the recruitment and retaining of apprentices, £25 million for retraining in growth sectors and £20 million to help employers to address skills gaps.
As well as extending protections against eviction from rent arrears until March 2021, the First Minister said a new hardship fund for tenants would be set up.
The £10 million would be used to help those who have struggled to pay their rent due to the pandemic.
Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government is working with the construction sector to ensure that it meets the target of 50,000 new affordable homes – 35,000 of which would be for social rent – “as soon as possible”.
The sector was on track to meet the target by the end of the parliamentary term before the pandemic.
A further £275 million will be given to fund community-led regeneration of local areas and town centre revitalisation.
The First Minister also said the Scottish Government would be working with local authorities to make the concept of the “20-minute neighbourhood” a reality.
The idea states that shops, green space, public services, leisure facilities and work should be within 20 minutes of an affordable home.
The First Minister announced plans to incorporate the UN Convention on the Right of the Child into Scots law, which she called “one of the most ambitious pieces of legislation in the 20-year history of devolution”.
She added: “This will mean public authorities – including the Scottish Government – will be required by law to act in ways compatible with the convention’s requirements to recognise, respect and be accountable for the rights of children in what we do.
“The implications of this Bill will be profound, far-reaching and long-lasting.
“It is a commitment that exemplifies the importance this Government attaches to the rights, opportunities and future of all our young people.”
The full Programme for Government can be read here.
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