FIRST Minister Humza Yousaf is expected focus on childcare, poverty, and the economy in the first Programme for Government since taking power.

A raft of announcements are expected on Tuesday as the SNP leader spells out the package of policy measures which his government will focus on over the next parliamentary session.

Speaking to journalists on Monday during a visit to a nursery in Dundee, Yousaf said the announcement would help tackle poverty and boost the economy by bringing people back into the workforce.

The announcement, he said, would include support for breakfast and after school clubs and potential further expansion of free childcare and support for staff – including those in the private, voluntary and independent sector.

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“We’re looking at areas around what we can do in relation to the pathfinder projects that we have that help provide that all year round, school age child care from breakfast clubs to after school clubs,” he said.

“We’ll be looking at what we can do in relation to further expansion to two-year-olds and what more can be done in supporting staff in the PVI sector in particular.”

He added: “There’ll be a whole package announced, and of course it will be fully funded by the Government.”

According to reports, the programme will also include a trial of four-day working weeks for some public sector workers in Scotland.

But speaking to journalists, the First Minister – who has previously been chastised by Holyrood’s Presiding Officer after details of Government announcements were released to the press before being made in parliament – was reticent over details about other parts of the Programme for Government.

The National: Humza Yousaf said he believes consumption rooms can play a role in tackle drug deaths (Jane Barlow/PA)

Asked about a possible four-day work pilot, Yousaf said there was “a really strong evidence base” for the move and he would like to gather more data, adding “the public sector would naturally be one of the areas to look at”.

Asked if there were plans to increase the Scottish Child Payment from £25 per week to £30 per week – something Yousaf said he would consider during the SNP leadership race earlier this year – as well as on plans for taxation and the relationship with business, the First Minister appeared keen to give nothing away.

However, he did commit to take action to protect people living in the private rented sector.

The Programme for Government will come against a background of struggling public finances, with a £1 billion black hole expected in next year’s Scottish budget.

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Asked if the financial position could impact on his ability to make his mark, the First Minister said: “There’ll definitely be some initiatives that I hope will demonstrate the direction I want to take the Government, but there’s no getting away from the scale of the public finances and the challenge that we face in relation to those public finances.

“It’s the most difficult time, certainly I’ve ever seen for the public finances, and I’ve been in government for 11 years.

“We know because of the disaster of the mini budget last year from the UK Government that public finances are not just going to be constrained for the year ahead, but I’m afraid for probably many years to come.”

The National: Roz Foyer, general secretary of the STUC, pictured at the STUC's new offices in Bridgeton, Glasgow
Photograph by Colin Mearns, Jan 22, 2022

Roz Foyer (above), the general secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, called on the Government to be “bold” and increase the rate of taxation on higher earners, including redistributing wealth through a combination of land and wealth taxes.

Foyer said: “Now is not the time for half-measures or rollbacks. The First Minister must stand firm and be unashamedly progressive in his first Programme for Government to ensure public sector workers get fair pay and our public services are supported.

“There is wealth in our nation. In this time of humanitarian crisis, with so many struggling to afford the basic necessities, it’s not unreasonable to ask those with the broadest shoulders to pay their share.”

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Scottish Green Minister Lorna Slater said that the Programme for Government would have her party’s “values at its heart”.

The Bute House Agreement between the Greens and the SNP, which saw the smaller party welcomed into government for the first time in the UK, has come under fire in recent months, with suggestions that SNP members should be given a second vote on the issue.

The first time they were asked, some 95% of SNP members backed a deal with the Greens and Yousaf made clear he would continue it if elected in the leadership contest earlier in 2023.

The National: Lorna Slater, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity in the Scottish Government (Jane Barlow/PA)

Slater (above) said: “This will be a positive and progressive programme for action that has Green values at its heart.

“It demonstrates the strength and the value of the co-operation agreement between the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Government in the face of brutal Tory cuts and Labour’s shameful retreat on climate action.”

She went on: “All of this stands in stark contrast to the chaos, calamity and climate wrecking policies we are seeing from Westminster.

“We will build on this record of delivery with today’s Programme for Government, which will lay out the steps that we are taking for Scotland’s communities and our environment.”