With all the happenings in Westminster recently, you can be forgiven for missing the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2019/20 on 03 September 2019.

Entitled ‘Protecting Scotland’s Future’, the Programme is unashamedly aimed at the ambitions for Scotland as a nation – though that is the point of devolution.

I have looked at this Programme for things that will impact our profession and, thankfully, there is not a lot:

Brexit

Unsurprisingly, Mrs Sturgeon’s speech began by mentioning EU Exit and how the Scottish Government were opposed to it, particularly a no-deal exit.  It acknowledges that that this is something that they will take into account and, as a result, some parts of the Programme may have to be postponed.

Independence

Alignment with EU Law moving on from EU Exit, Mrs Sturgeon said that it was her intention to offer Scotland the chance to operate as a nation independent of the rest of the UK.  The Referendums Bill will continue its Scottish Parliamentary progress with the momentum to secure a second independence reference that cannot be legally challenged.

The Scottish Government will introduce a Continuity Bill designed to allow the Scottish Parliament to ‘keep pace’ with EU law.  This was previously introduced as The Scottish Government’s EU Continuity Bill in 2018 but was ‘constrained’ / superseded by the UK’s own EU (Withdrawal) Act.

Note that this Bill will apply in devolved areas of legislative competence for Scotland.

Bills for 2019/20

In addition to the above Continuity Bill, the following will be introduced:

  • Animal Health and Welfare (Amendment) Bill
  • Budget Bill
  • Circular Economy Bill
  • Civil Partnership Bill
  • Defamation and Malicious Publication Bill
  • UEFA European Championship Bill
  • Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) Bill
  • Good Food Nation Bill Hate Crime Bill
  • Heat Networks Bill Redress (Survivors of In Care Abuse) Bill
  • Rural Support Bill
  • Transient Visitor Levy Bill

Of course, we must always look out for the Budget Bill, as this will be the one that sets out the Scottish Income Tax rates and thresholds.

I cannot see that there are any other measures that will directly impact the payroll or reward functions.  However, they may impact employers and Scottish individuals.

‘Green’ Measures

Chapters 1 (from page 34) outline a range of measures that will end Scotland’s contribution to climate change and promote a ‘successful, fair and green economy’.

Included within Chapter 1 is a package that will promote the use and demand for ULEVs (Ultra Low Emission Vehicles), something which may impact employers and ULEV company car drivers.

Education

Chapter 2 (from page 64) includes initiatives for ‘a diverse, skilled and empowered workforce’, essentially saying that investment in workforce development will increase in 2020/21.  This builds on the Flexible Workforce Development Fund, one of Scotland’s responses to employers paying the Apprenticeship Levy.

Chapter 2 also includes a range of measures developing Scotland transport system.

Improving Outcomes through Public Services

Chapter 3 (from page 96) is about developments and initiatives that public services will make towards the goal of ‘a deep and lasting contribution to the wellbeing of our communities’.  This includes a number of measures that are designed to, for example, tackle health inequalities, improve NHS Scotland and encourage people to live healthier lives.

Chapter 2 also includes information about expanding Scotland’s early learning and childcare offering, including increasing the funded childcare offering to 30 hours per week during the school year (along the lines of that offered in England and wales, though there are still differences).

Again, not much for payroll or reward professionals but much for individuals to digest in this section.

Student Loans

Page 123 revisits something that we knew anyway.   It says:

‘The maximum repayment period for student loans has been reduced from 35 years to 30 years and, from April 2021, the repayment threshold will rise to £25,000’.

The repayment period has already been reduced from 35 to 30 years, i.e. the period after which a Student Loan is written off if it has not been repaid.  The other comments is about raising the Plan 1 threshold for Scottish Student Loan borrowers from the current threshold.  I thought that the intention was to raise this to the Plan 2 threshold that applies for borrowers in England and Wales, currently £25,725.  I have asked this to be raised at HMRC’s Student Loan Consultation Forum next week.

Regardless of what the value is, employers and software developers need to be aware that there will be a new Plan in place from April 2021 – Plan 1 (Scotland) with a higher threshold but the same repayment rate.

Value, Protection and Respect

Chapter 4 (from page 130) deals with the services that provide dignity and respect to Scotland, i.e. the Scottish police, justice system and fire and rescue.  It talks about equality such as the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 which established a statutory objective for equal representation of women on public sector non-executive boards by 2022.

There is a section on the year-old Social Security Scotland and the benefits that they are able to pay claimants.  Again, I do not see that there are any implications in this for employers, though there will be for individuals.  For that reason, it is worth pointing to pages 146 to 151.

Summary

Scotland’s Programme for Government is a long read but shows the power that the Scottish Parliament has as a result of its devolved powers.

Thankfully, apart from the Budget Bill and the announcement about Student Loans, I do not see that there is much in there that impacts our profession.  However, it is a must-read for individuals in Scotland.

Although, EU Exit may impact whether some of the plans can be delivered.  However, I think that this probably applies UK-wide.

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