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Nicola Sturgeon to use Scotland Bill powers 'creatively and ambitiously'

Nicola Sturgeon will today set out how she plans to use new powers that are coming to Holyrood both "creatively and ambitiously".

As MSPs return to the Scottish Parliament after the summer recess, the First Minister will outline her legislative programme for the coming year.

Ms Sturgeon, described as the most powerful woman in UK politics by new Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, will also outline her proposals for the coming decade to use the new tax and welfare powers that are to be devolved.

The Scotland Bill, which is currently going through Westminster, will give MSPs control over the rates and thresholds for income tax, as well as handing over responsibility for Air Passenger Duty.

Holyrood will also get some welfare powers for the first time, with the devolution of some benefits, and the power to 'top up' other payments.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Our vision for the coming decade includes how we will creatively and ambitiously use the limited new powers proposed in the Scotland Bill.

"On social security, employment, the work programme, the Crown Estate and taxation, the coming year will see the Scottish Government set out clear plans to use all the powers at our disposal to benefit the lives of individuals, communities and business across Scotland."

She insisted her Scottish Government has a " record to be proud of", claiming SNP ministers have delivered "high quality public services which have improved the lives of people in this country" in the face of spending cuts.

The SNP leader said: " Scotland's foundations are strong and this programme for government sets out how we will build on them in the years ahead."

Meanwhile Ms Dugdale, who has become Labour leader at a time when the SNP has a commanding lead in the polls in Scotland, challenged the First Minister to use the powers at her disposal to "build a fairer nation".

The Lothians MSP highlighted the gap in attainment between rich and poor, and called on the Scottish Government to immediately suspend all school inspections for a year to transform the process and "drive to a better system that means fairness for all".

Ms Dugdale said: " The First Minister is the most powerful woman in British politics today, she's had a year to get used to the job, and it's time she started wielding that power to build a fairer nation."

With the SNP having been in power at Holyrood since 2007, the Labour leader added: " Children who started High School this week have spent every year of their time at school under an SNP Government. What have we seen for it?

"We see a 12% attainment gap in reading between the rich and the poor, a 21% gap in writing and a 24% gap in numeracy. Almost half of the poorest kids leaving primary school are unable to write properly or to count properly.

"Scotland can be better than that. By investing in these kids we are investing in the country's most powerful and potent natural resource. We aren't just cutting inequality but we are giving our future workforce the skills they need to make Scotland a fairer and more prosperous nation for the years that lie ahead."


From Belfast Telegraph