On Tuesday last week, Jack McConnell set out the legislative programme for the Executive until 2007. Here are the highlights:
Modernising the Scottish Justice System: 'This Government is renewing
and modernising the Scottish justice system from top to bottom and from
beginning to end.' So it would appear that a little change is in the
pipeline. The First Minister reported that Professor Irving's review on
managing sex offenders will be published shortly. Further, he detailed
that strong efforts are continuing on tackling serious organised crime.
Later this month, a 'police, public order and criminal justice' bill
will be introduced in order to 'improve police effectiveness and
further improve community safety.' On the same line, the work of the
Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency (to be renamed the Scottish Crime and
Drug Enforcement Agency) will be strengthened, Sectarianism is Scotland
will not be tolerated and the law on firearms will be toughened up.
In order to 're-establish respect for and confidence in the law',
various changes will affect the summary justice system, including
reforming bail arrangements, with the granting of bail to be made more
difficult in certain circumstances. The Executive, reflecting advice
given by the Sentencing Commission for Scotland, intends to introduce a
sentencing bill, so that 'the punishment fits the crime'. Legislation
will be introduced to create a Scottish human rights commission, legal
aid will be reformed and the process for complaining about lawyers will
be revised. The judicial appointments system is also to be reformed, to
make it more open and independent. The arrangements for the removal of
a judge from office will also be set out, with grounds consisting of
inability, neglect of duty or misbehaviour.
Children: There will be efforts made to improve the lives of children,
both in health and their options for the future, with a focus on
preventing criminal behaviour. The concept of involving parents to a
higher degree in their children's schools is also proposed. The aim is
to introduce and give a statutory footing to parent bodies. It will
allow them to request an inspection from HM Inspectorate of Education
if necessary. An additional aim is to 're-engage young people' in order
to promote further education, to further their opportunities and
Health: Here the idea is not only to improve the NHS but the health of
Scots in general. Returning to the subject of children's education,
Jack McConnell plans to improve school meals and educate on the
principles of good health. Smoking is seen to be the 'one thing that we
need to beat before we can truly transform our health in Scotland'.
With the legislation on smoking in public places being introduced this
year, it is hoped that national health will greatly improve as a result.
The Economy: 'Instead of this place being somewhere that we find
Scottish solutions to Scottish problems, it should be about finding
Scottish success through Scottish ambition...I do not want Scotland'
success to be defined by our relationship with England.' The way to
achieve this, states the First Minister, is to decrease poverty, invest
in universities and promote Scotland abroad. VisitScotland is to be
promoted, with a Tourism bill to be introduced.
The laws of personal bankruptcy and diligence will be modernised, with
a better balance between the rights of creditors and debtors being
Planning appears to be a big focus of the Executive this year. It is
proposed that an efficient planning system will improve employment
rates, regenerate areas, create safer neighbourhoods and further
investment in schools and hospitals. The First Minister wants current
local plans updated. In June, a white paper was published, setting out
the future for Scotland's planning system. It will 'serve Scotland's
aspiration for prosperity, a better environment and greater
Two budget bills will also be introduced. Finance Ministers will make
public steps to reduce Scotland's business rate poundage to draw
alongside that of England's. Also, to provide Scotland with a
competitive advantage, reduced rates for research and
development-intensive companies will be considered.