IT is the first week that the Scottish Parliament is back in session following the summer recess. As such, the First Minister yesterday set out his Programme for Government (PfG) in the parliamentary session ahead.

It's a programme which focuses squarely on ameliorating the cost of living crisis imposed upon us all by the woeful Conservative government in Westminster – at least within the limits of the powers afforded by a devolution settlement that is crumbling more quickly than aerated concrete.

Central to the programme are plans for long-term rent controls as part of a raft of measures to tackle homelessness. The First Minister confirmed that the new Housing Bill due to be put before the Scottish Parliament in the coming months will include rent controls and new rights for tenants.

READ MORE: Scottish Government confirms plans for rent controls and new tenants' rights

Humza Yousaf (below) also told MSPs that the Scottish Government will give local authorities the power to raise council taxes on second homes. He additionally committed £60m in order to acquire empty properties which could be converted into affordable housing.

The pressing need for more affordable housing is a direct result of Conservative decimation of council housing and their ideological warping of the housing market, treating housing as an investment opportunity rather than as a basic human essential. This has seen the cost of buying a house rise beyond the means of thousands of households and driven a huge expansion in the private rental sector.

The National: Humza Yousaf has said a review into Raac in schools and other buildings will take 'some months'

Aditi Jehangir, secretary of tenants' union Living Rent, welcomed the plans and urged the Government to "make sure this legislation delivers for tenants”.

She added: "These reforms of our broken housing system are long overdue and it is tenants who have paid the price.”

Other highlights of the PfG include an investment of £400 million in the Scottish Child Payment Scheme, worth £25 per child per week for eligible families. This payment helps to mitigate the effects of the Conservative Government's two-child cap on social security payments, described by anti-poverty charities as a mechanism for creating child poverty.

Keir Starmer recently confirmed that a future Labour government will keep the cap in place, despite the unconvincing attempts of Anas Sarwar to pretend that the Labour party in Scotland is in favour of its abolition.

Douglas Ross is at it again

Of course Holyrood would not be Holyrood without that other traditional fixture of the Scottish Parliament: Tories behaving badly.

At the end of the debate on the PfG, Scottish Tory girner-in-chief Douglas Ross was accused of misleading Parliament.

Health Secretary Michael Matheson lodged a point of order before Depute Presiding Officer Annabelle Ewing MSP concluded the debate. This concerned a claim that Ross had made earlier in the proceedings when he said that the Health Secretary had refused to meet with the Save Our Surgeries Burghead and Hopeman group, which is in Ross's constituency.

The National: Michael Matheson

Michael Matheson (above) said: "During the course of the debate earlier on this afternoon, Mr Ross, during his contribution stated, and I quote: 'I mention Mr Matheson because he has refused to meet with GP campaigners in my local area and I had to write to him several times on this matter’.”

He added: "In fact, Mr Ross was actually invited to attend that meeting, but unfortunately, because of parliamentary business we both had to be in the chamber, and the meeting had to be cancelled last week.

“As a result, my office actually extended two further dates over the course of the next two weeks to meet with that campaign group and for Mr Ross to be able to attend that meeting."

And a four-day work week

The Scottish Government has also unveiled plans to pilot a trial scheme to introduce a four day working week for certain public sector workers.

The announcement stated that the Scottish Government will "commence the four-day working week public sector pilot by the end of this calendar year, to assess the wellbeing, environmental, and productivity benefits the four-day working week could bring”.

READ MORE: Four countries which have a four-day work week as Scotland set to trial system

According to the 4 Day Week Campaign, the system does not necessarily mean a person will only work four days. Instead, 32 hours of work could potentially be spread over more days in order to help employees achieve a healthier work-life balance. Some other countries have already introduced similar schemes.

The idea is that the shorter working week boosts productivity and so output is not actually affected – however, employees are better able to manage conflicting demands of employment and family life, thus achieving better mental and physical health outcomes. For employers the benefits include greater productivity, reduced turn over of staff, fewer days lost to sickness and ill health and greater staff retention.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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