Unsurprisingly there has been a mixed reaction from Scotland’s MSPs to the plans put forward for this session of the Scottish Parliament by the SNP/Green Scottish Government.
SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Emma Roddick has welcomed the 2021/2022 Programme for Government as a strong plan to begin the recovery from the pandemic for Orkney.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon unveiled the Government’s programme for the next year to MSPs on Tuesday, saying that “a better Scotland – as part of a better world – is waiting to be built”.
The SNP argue that the Programme for Government is focussed on building a greener, fairer country for all individuals and families in Scotland, and offering the people of our country an informed choice on Scotland’s future.
It commits to invest at least £1.8 billion to make Scotland’s homes and buildings more efficient and easier to heat, doubling the Scottish Child Payment as quickly as possible and restarting work on a detailed prospectus for an independent Scotland.
Commenting, Emma Roddick said:
“This is an ambitious policy programme from the Scottish Government which has clear commitments to deliver a better life for people across Orkney.
“It addresses the challenges that the last 18 months has left us with and it has the ambition needed to rebuild a better country as we recover.
“The recovery and remobilisation of our health services is undoubtedly a top priority for people across Orkney so the SNP Government’s commitment to a minimum of £2.5 billion more on frontline health spending will be particularly welcome news.
“Today we have seen that we have an SNP Government who keep their promises, has the ambition needed to help build a better Scotland but, most crucially, takes the action needed to make that ambition a reality.
“This is a prospectus that meets the challenges and opportunities ahead and offers the people of Scotland the choice they deserve over their future.”
For the Scottish Greens Mark Ruskell MSP, their climate spokesperson said that it is an ” historic programme for government to parliament, the first from a government with Greens in it anywhere in the UK.”
He went on to say:
“Working in government, the Scottish Greens will lay the foundations for a Just Transition to a low-carbon economy and a new deal for tenants over the next year.
“This programme for government paves the way for a just transition for workers. This includes the £500 million Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray, where alternative jobs in low carbon industries are most needed. I’m proud that Lorna Slater will take a lead on this as a minister in government.
“And I’m proud that, led by Patrick Harvie, the strategy for the private rented sector will be published by the end of the year and will include our proposals for a system of rent controls.
“There will also be increased funding for home energy schemes and to tackle fuel poverty, part of at least £1.8bn investment in net zero buildings contained in the cooperation agreement between Scottish Greens MSPs and government, and £5bn invested in Scotland’s railways.
“This is what climate action looks like.
“The programme for government also includes the overdue reform of the gender recognition act, because trans and non-binary people deserve as much dignity, equality and inclusion as the rest of us.”
That’s the view from the Government side. What do other political parties say?
Douglas Ross, Tory Leader in Scotland and MSP for the Highlands and Islands commented that the programme for government was delayed from last week because, “Nicola Sturgeon prioritised taking Green MSPs into her Government over outlining her plans for the year ahead. Her priorities were wrong last week and they are still wrong this week. “
He said: “In a statement that is 27 pages long, it takes Nicola Sturgeon four paragraphs to reach a mention of independence.
“Nicola Sturgeon has put independence above Scottish jobs and separating Scotland is the top priority for her Government, rather than a recovery.
“The SNP Government’s focus on the future of Scotland is on a referendum, not on getting through the pandemic. Surely the Government should be pouring every single bit of time and effort into our economy, tackling drug deaths and remobilising our NHS? But no, it has put independence at the forefront again.”
The Labour leader in Scotland, Anas Sarwar MSP said that the programme produced by the SNP/Green Government was short on big ideas . He said:
“It is not good enough, it is not bold enough and it will not do enough.”
Anas Sarwar commented that there will be some policies which Labour will be able to support but,
“the dire truth is that, despite the SNP’s rhetoric, the only historic things today are the levels of poverty in our streets, the numbers waiting for treatment in hospitals and the depth of the economic crisis facing our country. In the face of those challenges, this is a tired and rehashed programme from a party that has clearly run out of big ideas.
“This disappointing programme for government shows that there is a lack of ambition from this SNP Government. Seriously, is that it? Is that as good as it gets? Is that the scale of ambition for this country? I do not think so.
“This Government’s record is defined by delays, broken promises and a gulf between spin and action, and it seems that we can expect more of the same.”
Liam McArthur MSP, who represents the Orkney constituency for the LibDems said:
“As ever, the Programme for Government is a mixed bag, including proposals which command cross party support. Amongst these, support for the delivery of the National Islands Plan and a commitment to Carbon Neutral Islands by 2040 are particularly welcome.
“However, as the Auditor General made clear in his report today, there is a serious ‘mismatch’ between the SNP government’s record on policy and delivery. In short, Nicola Sturgeon and her Ministers over-promise and under-deliver.
“Today we heard once again of re-hashed promises on an already badly delayed superfast broadband rollout. In addition, a commitment on decarbonised ferries lacked detail on how they will be funded and appeared to exclude Orkney’s internal fleet.
“Meanwhile, plans for a National Care Service bear the hallmarks of a classic SNP centralisation, drawing condemnation from Scotland’s local authorities as “an attack on localism” which undermines the value of local services.
“And at a time when the country is looking for new hope, the First Minister offers a new white paper on independence. This was a missed opportunity indeed.”
Click on this link to access: A Fairer, Greener Scotland: Programme for Government 2021-22