First Minister says equality of opportunity will be focus of Scottish Government over next 5 years
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called on the Scottish Parliament’s “progressive majority” to shape the agenda of the next five years of Scottish Government.
Sturgeon made the call in her opening speech to parliament, which she used to outline her government’s agenda over the term of the next parliament.
The speech included a range of measures to promote equality of opportunity, most of which derive from the SNP’s 2016 election manifesto, which Sturgeon said would now be a “blueprint” for government. However, in a move which will be interpreted as reaching out to cross-party left of centre opinion in the parliament sturgeon also adopted policies from the Scottish Labour, Scottish Liberal Democrat and Scottish Green manifestos.
Sturgeon said: “I believe that there is a clear progressive majority in this parliament. And where there is cross-party opposition to unfair or regressive Westminster policies – such as continued austerity, the renewal of Trident or attempts to undermine human and trade union rights – we will work with other parties to maximise parliament’s influence and make parliaments' voice heard.
She also said that campaigning for an In vote in the forthcoming EU referendum would be a vital demonstration of the a progressive majority in the parliament.
“Defending Scotland’s place in the EU is a key early priority in demonstrating that progressive majority,” she said.
Measures outlined in the speech include £750m in extra funding to close the educational attainment gap (the difference between the educational performance of the poorest and wealthiest students) in Scottish schools, £500m of which will go to head teachers, the doubling of free childcare provision for all three and four year olds and vulnerable two year olds to 30 hours a week and the introduction of a mental health strategy, including £150m additional health spending over five years and the appointment of a minister for mental health.
Speaking for the first time as the leader of the Scottish Parliament’s official opposition, Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson said she would subject SNP policy to “forensic scrutiny” and riled against what she said was the threat of higher taxes and a second independence referendum.
Claiming that the “three amigos” in charge of the Scottish Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP were plotting to support tax rises in the next parliament, she said: “They can keep charging up the valley of death if that is what they want to do.”
The speech and debate were introduced by the new presiding officer Ken Macintosh, who has pledged that First Minister’s Questions will be extended in the next parliament to place the first minister under greater scrutiny.
Picture courtesy of First Minister of Scotland