We believe that politics should be accessible to everyone, but unless you are a politician, it can be really hard to keep up with all the different political events. Politics Explained is NUS Scotland's series making simple what is (sometimes intentionally) difficult to understand in Scottish politics.
So, what is the Scottish Government's Programme for Government?
Every September, after the Scottish Parliament comes back from its summer recess, the Scottish Government outlines its legislative agenda in the annual Programme for Government.
The Programme for Government is essentially a document that outlines the government’s plans, priorities and policies that it intends to focus on in the year ahead.
It's released every year by the First Minister and accompanied with a speech, setting out ‘the big vision’. This is the first Programme for Government that will be introduced by FM Humza Yousaf, giving us a bit more insight into what the next political year might look like.
The Programme for Government also serves as a roadmap for what kind of legislation the government wants to push through – often specifying the proposed bills and intended timelines.
Why does it matter?
1) It allows people to hold the government to account. By presenting an annual set of priorities, the First Minister gives us an insight on what specific key objectives the government wants to focus on. A lot of these objectives or policies will simply build on or continue from previous years’ Programmes for Government, or come from the governing parties’ (SNP + Greens) manifestos. By giving us this insight into their agenda, we – the public – can hold the First Minister and his government to account on their promises and actions.
2) It sets the policy direction for the year ahead. At the time of multiple crises, the government has a lot to grapple with – but the Programme for Government sets out what it will focus on most and what its agenda will be. It gives an indication of what might be in the Budget – which will be first unveiled in December, three months from now. It also helps stakeholders and various organisations, like charities, student unions or the NUS, to understand where our plans fit in with the government’s priorities and where they diverge.
3) The policies impact our everyday lives. The Programme for Government contains proposed bills and policies, which will shape the laws that govern Scotland and affect our daily lives – from transport and health, to education and justice.
What we want to see in the Programme for Government:
- A timeline on when student support will be increased in line with the Real Living Wage. The Scottish Government recently recommitted to increasing student support in line with the Real Living Wage but we still do not have confirmation on how long this might take. We would like to see more clarity on this in the Programme for Government.
- The introduction of half price bus and rail fares for all students and apprentices. Over a fifth of students have missed classes because they could not afford the price of public transport to get there. We are asking for half price bus and rail transport for all students and apprentices so that no student misses class or placement due to the cost of transportation again.
- An immediate rent freeze and a sustainable system of rent controls on student accommodation. The average student rent went up by 34% between 2018 and 2021, far outpacing student support. We are asking the Scottish Government to step in to stop rents increasing at this pace.