'With permission, Sir David, I propose to make a statement on the executive's programme, with particular reference to our legislative intentions over the next parliamentary year.
'Before setting out our plans I would like to pay tribute to members of the parliament, for their consideration of our legislative proposals over the last year. Throughout the year parliament and the executive have worked together in the spirit envisaged by the devolution legislation. In the case of every one of our bills introduced since last October, the parliament, both in plenary and in subject committees, has approached the task of examining the policy development process and the contents of our measures in a very constructive way. I hope and expect that the harmonious working relationship which has been established will continue over the coming year.
'I am particularly grateful to my colleagues in the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups who have played a very full and constructive part in the policy making process. The partnership, no doubt to the disappointment of some, has shown commendable staying power.
'Our programme of legislation reflects what we believe and what we are seeking to do for Scotland.
To promote social justice;
To improve people's lives;
To build for the future.
To foster a competitive wealth-generating economy.
To deliver modern cost-effective public services
'These purposes reflect the political priorities and objectives of the executive. They run right through our programme for government (on which we shall be making a further statement in October), our approach to legislation, and our expenditure priorities. On spending, over the next 3 years there will be a dramatic increase, taking the total in real terms well beyond the highest level ever recorded in Scotland. We plan increases of over£1bn,£2bn and£3bn in the next three years, which will enable us to support people in the whole community, and so improve the social conditions of all.
'We will ensure that public spending is more closely attuned to policy objectives and less to departmental boundaries. For example, Scotland's elderly will benefit from this with a package amounting to well over£100m over the next three years and providing extra help on keeping warm at home, on concessionary fares and on long term care.
'Next week's spending statement will provide the means to deliver the difference we want to make in Scotland. We need to ensure that this money is used effectively:
on crime prevention, and
on all the other key services that this administration provides.
'By making this difference we will improve the lives of all Scots - children, working families, pensioners - and particularly those who most need our help. The spending announcements and the legislative programme reinforce each other. The legislation programme I am announcing today is essential if we are to deliver the difference and make Scotland a more effective and caring society.
Legislation - the first year
'I turn now to that legislative programme.
'In June last year, I announced a programme of 8 bills, and we subsequently brought forward a further 7 proposals. We have made significant progress in the area of social justice, in improving people's lives with the passing of the Acts on Adults with incapacity, education and training, and standards in Scotland's schools.
'The Abolition of Feudal Tenure and the National Parks Acts are both long overdue reforms. We have also introduced the Transport Bill which is tackling problems which others have ducked, in a policy area where opportunism has been all too common.
'Our main proposals for land reform legislation have been delayed for the best of reasons. We are now including the crofting community right to buy. Making new law in this area is especially complex and we must get it right. The legislation will be introduced in this parliament.
'In the field of modernising public services, the parliament and the executive, working together, have made significant advances with the passage of the Public Finance and Accountability Act and the Ethical Standards in Public Life Act.
'Sir David, to date the parliament has passed no fewer than 12 executive Bills. In the jostle of the Westminster legislative queue The Scottish office counted it a success if they secured two or three significant Bills. What has been achieved is quite remarkable and is concrete evidence of the benefits of devolution to the people of Scotland.
Legislation - the next year
'In the coming year, our present intention is to introduce 9 Bills. We shall introduce our Housing Bill before the end of this calendar year. It will form the basis for the most radical restructuring of the social housing sector in Scotland in a generation. It will provide a coherent framework for tackling Scotland's most pressing housing needs. Our aim is to boost the rights of tenants, and to ensure that their homes are of a high standard.
'Scotland will have a common social tenancy, a modernised right to buy. The scourge of homelessness will be tackled by strengthening local authorities' duties towards homeless people. Scottish Homes will be converted from a non-departmental public body into an executive agency working with local authorities, housing associations and other providers to improve housing conditions in Scotland. We are continuing to examine how our proposals can be further improved, particularly in tackling the issue of fuel poverty.
'This Bill provides the guarantee tenants are looking for as they look to the future. Tenants will have the opportunity to vote - through the community ownership initiative - for massive additional investment. Their rights will be protected and a strong regulator, accountable to this parliament, will protect their interests. Community ownership will draw in private finance, allowing public funds to be targeted towards improving the heating and the fabric of Scotland's most deprived homes. This Bill means not just warm words, but warm homes. This Bill improves people's lives, builds for the future and promotes social justice.
'Secondly, we shall bring forward a Bill for the Regulation of Care aimed at strengthening the protection of children and vulnerable adults. It will establish 2 new national bodies, the Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care and the Scottish Social Services Council.
The commission will register care services and will make regular independent inspections. For the first time there will be registration and inspection of care services - including those delivered in people's own homes - and children's services will also be covered. The council will regulate the social services workforce and co-ordinate education and training of social services workers.
'Most of us have friends or relatives who will need care services at some time in their lives. Indeed most of us will be in that position at some stage. The effect of changes in the Bill will be to make people more confident that care is of an assured quality and is being provided by people who are properly trained.
'This major Bill also addresses the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Long Term Care of the Elderly that relate to quality of care. Susan Deacon will present to parliament a more detailed response to the commission's report in the coming weeks.
'Our guiding principle will be to deliver the maximum possible benefit for the maximum number of people from the resources we have available. The test to be met is that public funds must improve the standard of care for the oldest and frailest members of our society and benefit as wide a range of people as possible. We will target particular effort and resource to those in greatest need. Too many older people and their carers are at present let down by current systems of health and social care.
'We are determined to address that through investment, policy and legislation. As a society we must recognise the challenges of an ageing population, and the work that must be done to ensure cost-effective high-quality health and social care for all the older people of Scotland.
'We will introduce a Bill to provide for the payment of a graduate endowment by Scottish and EU students who have completed a degree course or graduated, having studied at a Scottish college or university. The graduate endowment scheme will recognise the benefits which graduates have gained by studying in Scotland, and will help to support the students who come after them.
'The Bill will also ensure that students who study by distance learning will no longer be excluded from financial support from the executive. The new system will provide improved support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and encourage their entry into higher education. When fully implemented the scheme will put an additional£50m a year into student support - real proof of our commitments to widening access to higher education and improving Scotland's skills base.
'Our commitment to social justice also underpins our intention to bring forward an Evidence (Sexual Offences) Bill. As the deputy first minister has explained, we are committed to preventing the accused in sex offence cases from cross-examining the victim in person. We intend that the Bill will also strengthen the current restrictions on cross-examination on sexual history and character.
'We will introduce a Water Services Bill. which will provide a new framework of legislation to safeguard public health, protect the environment and provide accessible and affordable water services. It will also ensure that competition works in the interest of all customers. The framework will establish a regime to licence new entrants to the market, in the interests of quality of service, and it will also ensure that new entrants pay a fair share of the cost of maintaining public networks. I am firmly committed to a publicly owned Scottish water industry - owned indeed by authorities that remain accountable to ministers and parliament.
'There will be a Bill to deal with the need to strengthen rights which have been brought to the fore by the incorporation into Scots Law of the European Convention of Human Rights. The Bill will cover matters of substance focusing on adult mandatory life prisoners, security of tenure for Parole Board members and legal aid. It is essential that we deal with the challenges that have emerged. Our intention is that the Bill will be brought forward later this autumn.
'The programme will also include an International Criminal Court Bill reflecting the joint responsibility of rxecutive and parliament for observing and implementing the UK's international obligations insofar as they relate to devolved matters. The purpose of this Bill will be to give effect in Scotland to the UK's obligations under the relevant international treaty and to enable the UK to become one of the founder members of the new International Criminal Court to be based at The Hague.
The UK has taken the lead in calling for the establishment of a permanent international court to deal with persons accused of international offences such as war crimes, torture and genocide. This Bill will enable us to play our part in making the international court a reality.
'We shall bring forward a Salmon Conservation Bill, which will deal with concerns about declining salmon stocks by broadening the range of measures to conserve salmon. The Bill will allow District Salmon Fishery Boards to apply to the relevant Minister for regulations designed to enhance conservation. It will also permit Ministers to introduce area specific or Scotland-wide measures themselves where that is necessary.
'Finally, we shall bring forward our annual Budget Bill.
'Additional legislation may of course be required, arising for example from the important negotiations on the findings of the McCrone Report on teachers pay and conditions and further measures to protect the public from sex offenders. We also have a real interest in a number of member's Bills which the executive would be happy to see on the statute book. I can promise, Sir David, that 2001-2 will be a busy year.
'We remain committed also to introducing a Freedom of Information Bill. The Bill will provide the public with an important new legal right of access to information held by Scottish public bodies, and will establish an independent information commissioner to promote and enforce the regime. We are developing the legislation in an open and inclusive way, and were encouraged by the generally supportive response to our consultation document 'An Open Scotland'.
'The next step will be the publication of a draft Bill around the turn of this year, which will be subject to full consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny. We shall consider the results of this very carefully, but we aim to introduce the Bill itself as soon as possible later in 2001. Freedom of information is important legislation. We remain committed to delivering the distinctive freedom of information regime Scotland deserves.
'Sir David, I have set out an ambitious programme of legislation for the executive in our second parliamentary year. I have sought to place this in the wider context of our strategy for government. I have presented the programme to parliament with confidence, given what we achieved in our first year. In our second, parliament and the executive will once more work together for the benefit of the people of Scotland.
'This programme, like its predecessor, will, I believe, help to improve people's lives, build for the future, improve Scotland's competitiveness and get the best value from increased public expenditure. It underlines this executive's determination to work for social justice here in Scotland. I commend this programme to this chamber and the country.'