Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled “bold and ambitious” plans for the coming year aimed at making Scotland fairer, greener and more prosperous.
The First Minister announced the Scottish Government would introduce 16 new Bills to Holyrood in the next parliamentary year.
She confirmed plans to scrap the 1% pay cap for public-sector workers and with the Scottish Parliament now having power over income-tax rates and bands, the SNP leader said the time was right for a discussion on how these could be used in a “responsible and progressive” way.
Ms Sturgeon restated that education and cutting the attainment gap between rich and poor was her government’s top priority.
She promised an Education Bill that “will deliver the most radical change to how our schools are run” since devolution.
Headteachers will get “significant” new powers, she said, and the Scottish Government will also introduce new ways for people to go into a career in teaching.
The legislative programme included measures aimed at boosting Scotland’s environmental credentials, with Ms Sturgeon announcing she wants new petrol and diesel cars to be phased out in Scotland from 2032 – eight years sooner than the 2040 target that has been set by the UK Government.
A deposit return scheme for drinks cans and bottles will be brought in while a new Climate Change Bill will set “even more ambitious targets” for cutting greenhouse gases.
On health, Ms Sturgeon announced plans to expand free personal care to those under 65 who are suffering from conditions such as dementia or motor neurone disease (MND).
The legislation, dubbed Frank’s Law, after former Dundee United footballer Frank Kopel, who died after battling dementia, will be fully implemented, Ms Sturgeon confirmed.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson warned the First Minister was “opening the door on greater tax rises”.
She said she was “genuinely pleased” to see the inclusion of Frank’s Law in the programme for government.
Scottish Labour’s interim leader Alex Rowley welcomed some of the measures outlined in the programme, including the end of the public-sector pay cap and the establishment of a national investment bank.
However, he said that in other areas the government’s ears “are closed to advice, ideas and experience”.
Scottish Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said: “On a host of issues, this is a government that remains overly cautious and it must be prepared to go further.
“On clean energy, we see a commitment to carbon capture, which remains a speculative technology and which won’t help us in the immediate years ahead, and we still don’t have a ban on fracking.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the SNP has a “lack of ideas” and renewed his party’s calls for a fresh agreement on teacher pay and conditions.
He added: “This parliamentary term is a new opportunity to deliver change now and that there is a possibility of putting the divisions of independence behind us.”