BEFS overview: New statement from First Minister

BEFS Director provides a short overview of the new statement from the First Minister published on 18 April 2023.

The First Minister set out his priorities in a new policy document (18/04/2023) – outlining what the Scottish government aims to achieve by 2026. This set of aims is built around the values of equality, opportunity and community; and is broken down by portfolio. (See BEFS Blog on the new Scottish Government roles for further detail on the portfolio roles. Here BEFS Director has given a very short overview of activity which might be of interest to BEFS Members, Associates and Bulletin readers.)

The next two years look set to be busy, with the emphasis relevant to BEFS Members general areas of interest falling across a range of portfolios.

Within Finance we see that there is the intent to deliver, “subject to the agreement of parliament, legislation giving councils the discretionary power to apply a Local Visitor Levy on overnight stays in commercially let accommodation…” (p8).

Wellbeing, Fair Work and Economy seen as a key priority is outlined as, “building economic resilience, supporting sectors such as hospitality and tourism that have been adversely impacted by COVID but make significant economic contributions across communities throughout Scotland.” (p10).

The Social Justice portfolio sets out the intent for a “Remote, Rural and Island Housing Action Plan” (p15); as well as better news for the third sector with the promise to progress “Fairer Funding arrangements, including exploring options to implement multi-year funding deals, enabling the third sector to secure the resilience and capacity it needs…” (p16).

The Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition asserts that they “will ensure that we have accessible, available, and affordable public transport, that our buildings become energy efficient, and we transition away from fossil fuel heating.” (p21). They will also continue to support “the transition of over 1 million homes and circa 50,000 non-domestic buildings to adopt zero direct emissions from heating by 2030 – working closely with the public and business through consultation and engagement.” (p22).

The Culture portfolio could perhaps seem somewhat side-lined when taking into account the activity also under this Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs and Constitution. However, we are reminded that: “Scotland enjoys a rich and distinct culture sector, valuable for the contribution it makes to our wellbeing as we recover from the impact of the COVID pandemic, and to Scotland’s economic and social life and international reputation, including through the major events hosted here”. The Government “will build on this strong foundation by continuing to invest in our culture and arts sectors, working with them to increase their resilience and future sustainability.” (p26). This is further backed up with the desire to “focus on measures to increase [the culture sector’s] sustainability and resilience.” (p27).

The duo of Green Ministers will, “ensure that Scotland leads the way in tackling the climate emergency” (p28). There is a reassertion that, “Within government we will continue to lead directly on delivery of some of that work – a Housing Bill to deliver a national system of rent control and wider rented sector reform, […] ; a Circular Economy Bill to revamp how we use resources and deal with waste; transformation of the active travel landscape; a new National Park; consult on Heat in Buildings proposals for climate-friendly heating; and other programmes which lie directly within our ministerial portfolios.” (p29)

This is not a full programme for government, and does not have a related finance document. It is unclear from this policy document if any previously expressed priorities have been lost, delayed, or side-lined. BEFS will continue to monitor publications and announcements, and bring readers what we hope is most pertinent to their work.