Scotland

At-a-glance: Scottish legislative programme

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced 12 bills to be brought before Holyrood, under her plans for government in the coming year.

Ms Sturgeon, who said her programme for government would be for "all of Scotland", also said an independent commission to examine "fairer" alternatives to the council tax would report by autumn 2015.

Here is a look at the government's proposed legislation and what it intends to achieve.


Land Reform Bill

Ms Sturgeon described land reform as "unfinished business" for the Scottish Parliament, and promised a "radical programme" of reform so Scotland's land could be "an asset that benefits the many, not the few".

A consultation process will be carried out, but Ms Sturgeon said it was intended that the following key proposals would be among those included in the bill:

  • Powers for ministers to intervene where the scale of land ownership or the conduct of a landlord was acting as a barrier to sustainable development;
  • The establishment of a Scottish Land Reform Commission;
  • Measures to improve the transparency and accountability of land ownership and make information on land, its value and ownership more readily available in one place;
  • Action to ensure charities holding large areas of land were under an obligation to engage with local communities;
  • The removal of business rates exemptions for shooting and deerstalking estates.

Ms Sturgeon said the rates exemptions were put in place by the Tories in 1994 to "protect the interests of major landowners".

Ending them would help the government more than treble the Scottish Land Fund from £3m this year to £10m a year from 2016, she said.

Ms Sturgeon said that would help meet the government's target of having 1,000,000 acres of land in community ownership by 2020.


Community Charge Debt Bill

This bill will end collection of debts from non-payment of the poll tax, 21 years after its abolition.

Ms Sturgeon said a "significant number" of voters had left the electoral roll to avoid the poll tax, before rejoining this year to vote in September's independence referendum.

She added: "I don't want people to fear being on the electoral register because of decades-old debts from discredited legislation.

"This bill will help to avoid that and ensure that everyone's voice continues to be heard."


Education Bill

Ms Sturgeon said "much more" must be done to ensure all pupils, regardless of background, had an equal opportunity to succeed.

The Education Bill would give new rights to children who may have additional support needs, she said.

The first minister also said the government would:

  • Make it a priority to improve the educational outcomes of pupils in the most disadvantaged areas of Scotland, through initiatives such as the "Raising Attainment for All" programme, which covers more than 150 schools.
  • Ensure quality assurance body Education Scotland appointed advisers in every local authority to improve attainment.
  • Launch a new literacy and numeracy campaign - Read, Write, Count - for children in P1-3, and focused in Scotland's most deprived communities.

Higher Education Governance Bill

Ms Sturgeon said the bill would ensure university governing bodies were "transparent, democratic and accountable".

The legislation will be introduced alongside a "challenging long-term target" to eradicate inequality in access to higher education.

Ms Sturgeon said she wanted to ensure a child born today in one of the country's most deprived communities would, by the time he or she left school, had the same chance of going to university as a child born in one of the most prosperous areas.

She said: "That means we would expect at least 20% of university entrants to come from the most deprived 20% of the population.

"The target will be challenging and will require concerted action over a number of years. But it is an essential part of the long term challenge to address inequality."

The first minister also pledged to set up a "commission on widening access" to advise on the milestones the country should set along the way and the practical steps which would be will be required to meet the ambition.


Public Health Bill

This legislation aims to reduce the "attractiveness and availability" of tobacco products and electronic cigarettes.

The bill will also place a "duty of candour" on health professionals and ensure courts have the power to deal with cases where people relying on health or social care have suffered from ill-treatment and neglect.


Carers Bill

Ms Sturgeon paid tribute to Scotland's "unsung army" of unpaid carers, many of whom are older people caring for adult children or spouses.

She pledged to extend the amount of short breaks, advice and assistance to those who needed it.

The bill will also ensure carers are involved in the planning and delivery of the services that affect them, the first minister said.


Community Justice Bill

This will transfer responsibility for community justice services to the 32 community planning partnerships, to help cut reoffending.

Ms Sturgeon also signalled the Scottish government's intention to step up its action against domestic abuse, by consulting on the introduction of a new specific criminal offence of committing domestic abuse.

Ministers will also consider legislation to tackle the issue of revenge porn, while leading experts will also be brought together to discuss how best to prevent abuse.

Ms Sturgeon said the aim was to change the attitudes and behaviour which cause the problem, as well as providing better support.

Last week, Police Scotland launched pilot programmes in Ayrshire and Aberdeen to strengthen women's right to request information about previous abusive behaviour of a partner.

They will take a decision "as soon as feasible" about the roll out of this approach - known as Clare's Law - to the rest of the country.


Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill

According to the latest figures, at least 55 people in Scotland in the past year could have been victims of human trafficking and used for forced labour, domestic servitude or prostitution.

Ms Sturgeon said the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill had already commanded wide support from organisations, such as Amnesty International and MSPs such as Labour's Jenny Marra.

The bill, which will be introduced shortly, will clarify the rights of the victims of trafficking and strengthen the ability to help victims and bring offenders to justice.


Other bills

The government's legislative programme will be completed by a Budget Bill, setting out overall spending for the year ahead, and a Fatal Accidents Inquiries Bill to reform the system.

There will also be a Succession Bill, and a Harbours Bill.

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