This year’s Programme for Government will help contribute to a successful and vibrant Highlands, driving progress in health, social security, the environment and the economy, Kate Forbes MSP has said.
The Highlands will benefit from ambitious action in a wide range of areas throughout 2018-19, including:
- Empowering head teachers to lead improvements to their schools with more power over their own budgets; developing ways for parents and pupils to ensure their voices are heard in decision-making; giving £10m to schools and councils to work together across regions; continuing to support teacher recruitment; and investing £33 million over three years to help children in care with education.
- A National Export plan ‘A Trading Nation’, backed by £20m, will boost the value of Scottish exports, help Scottish companies succeed in emerging markets, and provide additional help to those considering overseas trade.
- The National Infrastructure Mission, the most ambitious infrastructure spending plans yet, will invest £1.5 billion more infrastructure each year by 2025-26, including for faster broadband, improved transport and more low-carbon energy.
- £250m will be invested to reform the way we treat mental health in children and adults - delivering 430 new school, college and university counsellors, and fast-track specialist treatment systems for those with serious mental illness.
- A new Scottish Social Security System with dignity and respect at its heart will deliver 11 benefits, including the first Best Start Grant payments for low income families with young children by Christmas, 6 months earlier than planned; a 13% increase in the Carers’ Allowance – an extra £442 per person this year – as well as funeral expense assistance.
- New legislation to introduce a Scottish National Investment Bank.
- A major package of reforms in the justice system – with a new support system for victims, witnesses and families of those affected by crime, including a dedicated case worker for families of murder victims, improved information and support about prisoner release, as well as support for engagement between victims and offenders to help the victim and to prevent reoffending.
- £1bn investment a year including funding for low carbon transport solutions and to phase out new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032 – creating at least 20 electric towns across Scotland by 2025; adding 1500 new charge points in homes, businesses, and in public; investing £20 million to help people switch to electric vehicles; adding more than 1500 new ultra low emission vehicles to public sector fleets; and investing £1.7 million to add over 100 green buses.
Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch said: “The SNP’s plan forScotland signals a major boost for infrastructure, jobs and the economy which are all key priorities for the Highlands and Islands. It includes an additional £7 billion infrastructure investment in schools, hospitals, transport and digital connectivity over the next five years.
“Of particular significance is the additional £250 million funding for mental health services, which are particularly acute in the Highlands and Islands because of the impact of higher costs, longer distances to health centres and greater isolation.
“With Scottish exports up 12 per cent - the fastest growth in the UK – a £20m National Exports Plan this year will ensure the Highland’s businesses, who produce and process so much of Scotland’s food and drink, thrive in the face of the uncertainty of our future relationship with the EU.
“I want to ensure that the Highlands and Islands attracts and retains people to live and work in the area, and it is particularly disheartening to meet people from the EU who made this place their home and are facing the prospect of having to pay to stay. The Scottish Government has said it will cover the fees being charged by the UK Government for EU citizens who wish to stay.
“These bold and ambitious plans for the year ahead will, I hope, deliver for the people of the Highlands and Islands.”