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The Executive's 'ambitious and radical agenda' will deliver the reforms that will help to build a Scotland we can a...
The Executive's 'ambitious and radical agenda' will deliver the reforms that will help to build a Scotland we can all be proud to call home, first minister Jack McConnell told the parliament yesterday.

Tackling crime and anti-social behaviour, reforming health and education services, and improving the environment and local democracy are the main priorities in the legislative programme outlined to MSPs.

Mr McConnell said:

'We want to build a Scotland that delivers social justice and creates opportunities for all of its citizens to live and prosper. A country whose institutions are open and accountable and reflect the people's priorities. And a Scotland that rejoices and celebrate the diversity of its people and cultures and is confident of its place in Britain, Europe and the wider international community.

Full text of FM's statement

'We will introduce four new Bills before the summer recess - on education, health and justice - the people's priorities. We will publish proposals for dealing with Anti-Social Behaviour and the reform of the high court because it is time to act. And in our first year, we will concentrate our legislation on health, education, crime and the environment - exactly as we said we would.'

Deputy first minister Jim Wallace added:

'Growing the Scottish economy over the next four years will be a key priority for this executive. Taking steps to address the skills gap, fostering a spirit of enterprise in Scots of all ages and delivering on our ambitious transport programme will all be the focus of our efforts to ensure a more prosperous and sustainable Scotland.

'The green thread running through all policy areas is a radical step, and one which promises to deliver real changes for the better. Whether exploiting the jobs potential from renewables, waste and R&D or increasing the energy efficiency of homes and public buildings, this executive w ill put the environment and sustainability at the heart of decision-making.

'Our commitment to renew local democracy is also significant. Introducing PR STV for local elections will make every vote count and ensure local Councils properly represent the people who elect them. Changing the rules on age restrictions and entitlements will have a real and positive effect on those who to consider standing for election. All together, this package will help re-energise local government in Scotland after 2007.'

Mr McConnell said the executive planned 14 Bills in total.

Some four Bills will be introduced before the end of June 2003:

Vulnerable Witnesses ??? To improve the way that vulnerable witnesses are treated by the justice system and assist them to give their best evidence.

NHS Reform ??? To improve the effectiveness of health services, legislate for NHS reform, abolish NHS Trusts and establish Community Health Partnerships.

Primary Medical Services (GP Contracts) ??? To implement the new contract for providers of General Medical Services.

Education (School Meals)??? To make a technical amendment to section 53 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, to ensure that entitlement to free school meals is not adversely affected by changes to the benefits system.

Some 10 Bills will be introduced for the 2003-04 Parliamentary session:

Court Reform: Modernising Justice ??? To improve the efficiency with which justice is delivered through the High Court.

Anti-Social Behaviour ??? To introduce ASBOs for under-16s; Parenting Orders requiring parents to fulfil their responsibilities in respect of their children; tagging for under 16s; and ban the sale of spray paint to under-16s.

Education (Additional Support for Learning) ??? To reform provision for special educational needs. To end bureaucratic hurdles; provide mediation and tribunal services; give parents and carers a greater say; introduce flexibility to make sure children's education best meets t heir needs.

Education (Ministerial Powers of Direction) ??? Where the established steps of inspection, professional support and development do not secure the improvements identified for the local authority, to extend Ministerial powers to intervene, as a last resort and on the recommendations of the Inspectorate, to ensure that the action identified by the Inspectorate as necessary is taken by the local authority.

Nature Conservation ??? To deal with the conservation of biodiversity, reform of the SSSI (site of special scientific interest) system and build upon the successful delivery of custodial sentences and other wildlife crime measures in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003.

Water Services ??? To establish a regulatory framework for public water and sewerage services that enables public health, environment protection and social policy objectives to be safeguarded as competition in the industry develops.

Strategic Environmental Assessment ??? To ensure that the full environmental impacts of all new strategies, programmes and plans developed by the public sector are properly considered.

Local Governance ??? To renew local democracy and widen the range of people who become involved in local government.

Fire Services ??? Subject to the outcome of the current dispute, to legislate for a modern Fire Service updating the current legislation which dates back to 1947.

Budget ??? Annual Bill to give statutory authority to the Scottish Executive to spend out of the Scottish Consolidated Fund in the financial year 2004-05.

Mr McConnell said the executive will also:

Consult on legislation to modernise the laws of Personal bankruptcy and diligence ??? To strike a better balance between supporting business risk and protecting the rights of creditors.

Bring forward proposals for the establishment of a new Strategic Transport Authority, with legislation following later in the life of this parliament ??? To work within a framework of policy directio n set by Ministers to deliver improvements in our transport infrastructure.

Legislate to provide secure status for Gaelic, with a consultation on the draft legislation, as promised, in the autumn of this year. This legislation will introduce a national language strategy to guide the development and support of Scotland's languages, including British Sign Language and ethnic community languages.

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