Income Supplement To Help Reduce Unacceptable Levels Of Poverty

Our new Income Supplement will help reduce unacceptable levels of poverty

By 03/04/18

There can be no greater responsibility for any government than ensuring that all young people get the best possible start in life.

It is totally unacceptable that, in a country as wealthy as the UK, any child should be living in poverty. But the latest figures show that, over the last three years, almost one in four children in Scotland were living below the poverty line, once housing costs are taken into consideration.

These aren’t just numbers on a page. Behind every figure lies a human story; a child whose living environment, education, health – their entire life chances – are being limited by poverty.




📈 Tory cuts are pushing up poverty. Here’s what you need to know: 

Of course, many of the key powers relating to tackling poverty remain reserved to Westminster. And with the Tory government currently engaged in the biggest assault on the welfare state since its creation, no one should be seriously surprised that figures show poverty to be rising.

As long as the Tory government continues down this path – which they seem intent on doing despite evidence of the damage they are doing – the Scottish Government will always be fighting poverty with one arm tied behind our backs.

But frustrating as this is for me, it does not excuse us in the Scottish Government from doing everything we can, with the powers and resources we do have, to tackle poverty and inequality.

On the contrary, it actually makes our actions doubly important – because without further action, we estimate that UK welfare cuts could see the number of kids living in poverty rise to more than one in three by the end of the next decade.

That is not acceptable and we are not prepared to just sit back and let it happen.

Of course, we already doing a lot to support families on low incomes by, for example, supporting the real Living Wage and through measures like free prescriptions, free school meals and the widely-praised Baby Box – and of course through our significant investments in social housing and expanding childcare.

And we’re already spending £100 million a year from the Scottish budget – money that could be spent on services such as schools and hospitals – mitigating some of the worst of the UK welfare cuts, like the Bedroom Tax.

Last year MSPs unanimously backed our ambitious Child Poverty Bill, committing us to eradicating child poverty by 2030.

And last week we published a new Child Poverty Delivery Plan – outlining the new actions we will take to ensure that we’re fully responding to the current challenges facing families.

A lot of work and engagement has gone into this plan. We established our own Poverty and Inequality Commission to ensure that we were getting the best possible expert advice – but crucially we have listened carefully to the views of people with direct experience of poverty themselves.

As a result of their input, we will be focusing on “priority families” which we know are most at risk of poverty – lone parents, families with a disabled adult or child, young mothers, minority ethnic families, families with a child less than a year old, and families with three or more children.

And we are proposing a range of actions to support them.

There is action to tackle the cost of living that families often struggle with.

On top of the existing steps I outlined above, we’re going to introduce new, more targeted measures – such as a guaranteed minimum payment for the School Clothing Grant, £1 million on new practical support for children facing food insecurity during the school holidays, and a new Financial Health Check service to ensure families are maximising their incomes.

There is action to support parents in the workplace – because we know that sustainable, well-paid work is the best long-term route out of poverty – so we will invest millions of pounds in intensive employment support for parents, building on their skills and helping to progress through their careers.




Child poverty is unacceptable but it’s not inevitable.

Here’s our plan to end it. 

Our plan to tackle child poverty

We are determined to eradicate child poverty in Scotland. We have passed a new Child Poverty Act, published a new action plan and introduced a £50 million fund to step up our efforts.

 But perhaps the most radical proposal is a new Income Supplement.

Clearly, maximising incomes is an effective tool in tackling poverty, and I have some sympathy with people who asked us to top up child benefit for everyone. However, doing so would mean that seven out of every ten pounds spent would in fact go to families who are not living in poverty.

We want to see a much more targeted approach, to maximise support for families who need it most.

The Income Supplement is an ambitious policy, and the detail is still to be developed fully – for example, we need to consider the level at which it will be set, who exactly should benefit and what the delivery mechanism will be, as well as crucial issues such as ensuring that the interactions with UK benefits is properly understood. Once it is fully up and running, it will go a long way to reducing the unacceptable levels of poverty.

I don’t pretend that tackling poverty is easy. I’ve been in politics long enough to know that there are no overnight solutions – no quick fixes to what are deep-seated problems.

But I’m absolutely determined that we do not take our eye off the ball for even one moment.


This article originally appeared in the Evening Times. 



First Ministers of Scotland and Wales outline risks to devolution.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones have written to the House of Lords setting out why the Scottish and Welsh governments could not recommend consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill on the UK Government’s amendments to clause 11.

The two First Ministers also propose changes to the bill that they say would protect devolution. The Lords is due to consider aspects of the bill related to devolution on Monday.

Full text of the letter below.

Dear Lord Speaker

We are writing further to our letter of 23 January in response to the letter from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to all peers dated 12 March about the amendments which have been tabled by the UK Government setting out its revised approach to clause 11 of the Bill.

The Scottish Government and the Welsh Government acknowledge that this represents a change of position but the amendments do not have their support. In this letter we set out our concerns about the amendments and proposals for changes to them.

The UK Government amendments would provide a power to make regulations in devolved areas currently subject to EU law and would prevent the devolved legislatures from taking action in the areas covered in regulations. The UK Government say this is intended to be a temporary measure to provide certainty upon EU exit and to allow common frameworks to be put in place where it is agreed that these are necessary.

Alongside the amendments the UK Government has published a list of 158 areas of intersection of devolved competence with EU law, noting that it envisages regulations temporarily restricting devolved legislatures’ competence (in advance of more substantive arrangements in primary legislation) in up to 24 of those areas. It should be noted these 24 areas – all of which apply to both Wales and Scotland – cover a very significant part of devolved responsibilities, including agricultural support, fisheries management, environmental policy, public procurement and food standards.

These areas are of vital importance for the industries and economies of Scotland and Wales. The effect of the amendments now tabled in the House of Lords will be to allow the UK Government to make regulations in any or indeed all of these devolved areas – the 24 areas identified, or indeed the remaining 131 areas in its analysis.

The Scottish Government and the Welsh Government agree common frameworks are appropriate in some cases given the role of EU law in currently regulating action in all parts of the UK in these areas. But the devolved administrations and the devolved legislatures – whose legislative competence is being constrained – must agree any arrangements to ‘freeze’ EU law pending the development of such frameworks. However, the UK Government amendment allows it to make regulations – and also further primary legislation to establish frameworks – in these and in any other area it deems appropriate without any involvement of the legislatures and merely after consulting the devolved administrations. In being asked to give legislative consent to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill on this basis, the devolved legislatures would be being asked to agree to the creation of this power with no certainty about where frameworks will be established, how these will work, how they will be governed and how we will go from temporary restrictions to longer term solutions.

These shortcomings mean that the two Governments could not recommend consent to the amendment as it stands. They remain committed to working positively with the UK Government and propose the following changes to build on the position reflected in their current amendments:


Further amendments to ensure that the temporary restriction of legislative competence in areas where new frameworks are intended to be created requires the consent of the devolved legislatures. This is in line with normal practice for legislation affecting devolved competence: amendments to competence, either by way of primary legislation or through Orders in Council under the Scotland Act 1998 or the Government of Wales Act 2006, must be the subject of devolved legislatures’ consent.


Further amendments to put beyond doubt that primary legislation to establish frameworks in these areas in the future (and release the restrictions on legislative competence) must be agreed by the devolved parliaments, as is normally the case under the Sewel convention for Westminster legislation relating to devolved matters. The effect of the UK proposal may well be to reserve those matters, meaning the devolved legislatures may have no say on such legislation.


Further amendments to ensure that any power to make regulations as a precursor to frameworks is temporary: similar ‘sunset clauses’ are included in the case of other powers in the Bill which are temporary to allow laws to be updated in light of Brexit. There is no reason for this clause 11 power to stand as a permanent feature of the constitution when there are well established and successful legal mechanisms in place to adjust devolution.


Further amendments to place a ‘sunset clause’ on the restrictions of competence themselves. Whilst the two Governments accept that it may take time to put frameworks in place, regulations must not be open-ended and pressure to agree frameworks should apply to all parties. And while regulations restricting devolved legislatures’ competence remain in force, it should be a joint responsibility of the Secretary of State, the Scottish Ministers and the Welsh Ministers to prepare periodic reports and lay them before Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales, explaining what progress is being made to remove those restrictions.

The two Governments would be pleased to put forward detailed amendments if it proves impossible to reach agreement with the UK Government.

The two Governments have also asked that the UK Government agree a level playing field and make a commitment not to bring forward legislation in respect of England in those areas where it is agreed common frameworks are to be established.

We would be very grateful if this letter could, like the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster’s, be circulated to all Peers. We are copying it to the Leader of the House, the shadow Leader, the Convenor of the cross-bench peers and the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the Lords, as well as to David Lidington, the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales.

Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones

May warns Sturgeon publishing leaked Brexit analysis would harm UK’s “national interest”

DOWNING Street has urged Nicola Sturgeon to resist fully publishing Whitehall’s top secret analysis – which suggested Britain’s economy would slump after Brexit – warning it would jeopardise the UK’s “national interest” in the Brussels talks.

Michael Russell, the Scottish Government’s Brexit Minister, has written to David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, making clear that the First Minister believes the public has a right to know the full impact of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU on jobs and living standards.

“This is not our analysis and we do not see it as our responsibility to make arrangements on confidential handling. I want to be clear that if you send the analysis to us, we will make it public,” declared Mr Russell.

The UK Government has indicated that, together with MPs, the devolved administrations will receive the full draft analysis on a “confidential basis”.

Read Full Article: May warns Sturgeon publishing leaked Brexit analysis would harm UK’s “national interest”

Scotland after Brexit

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

David Hume Institute

16 January 2018

Thank you, Jane-Francis (Kelly). It’s a pleasure to be here again.

The meet the leaders session has become a new year tradition – it’s almost becoming part of the winter festival programme. This series of events is a really good and powerful demonstration of the institute’s role in leading and informing public debate in Scotland. I greatly value – as I am sure all the party leaders do – this opportunity highly because it is an opportunity to discuss with you some of the key issues facing Scotland now and in the future.

All of the leaders this year have been asked to speak about Brexit specifically. In doing that, the second half of my speech I will focus on an issue I was talking about yesterday and that is the issue of migration – an issue which is of considerable importance to Scotland, and one where Brexit presents us with very distinct challenges which, to my mind, require some distinct solutions.

Before I turn to that, I thought it would be useful to give a brief overview of where I think the Brexit process is now – and give you my views and what the Scottish Government’s priorities for seeking to influence that process as best we can in the year ahead.

Next week marks five years since David Cameron delivered the speech in which he committed to having a referendum on EU membership. Perhaps one of the most significant and fateful political speeches in the UK’s recent history. He made that speech at the Bloomberg offices in London and announced that if the Conservative party won the 2015 general election, he intended to hold a referendum on EU membership.

In that speech he set out his belief that “Britain’s national interest is best served in a flexible, adaptable and open European Union, and that such a European Union is best with Britain in it”. Of course the eventual consequences of that speech, as we now know, turned out to be the exact opposite of what he intended.

Today we stand just 14 months away from the date when the UK is set to leave the EU. Let me be clear, I still don’t want Scotland, or the UK, to leave the EU – my preference is, and will continue to be, for Brexit not to happen. My preference is for Scotland to be an independent member state of the EU. I think that would serve our interests best.

However, as First Minister of Scotland, I have a duty to do all I can to protect Scotland’s interests in all circumstances. Tonight I want to concentrate on how we are seeking to influence the situation now and how we will do that in the crucial week and months that lie ahead in order to help shape the best possible outcome for not just Scotland, but the UK as a whole.

I’ve got to be frank with you in saying how disturbing I think it is that just 14 months away from the planned exit from the European Union, the UK government’s plans still seem to be – and I am putting this as mildly as I can – in a state of chaos.

That’s partly, I think, because there still seems to be a wilful denial of the complexities that are associated with Brexit. The leader of the House of Commons said last week that “It will be easy for the EU and the UK to agree to continue to do things with…zero non-tariff barriers”. That’s not a statement which has any roots in reality. Avoiding non-tariff barriers, which I’m sure everyon wants to do – requires agreement on harmonised regulations and a whole range of other matters – it is not something which will be easy to agree. In fact the trade deal between the EU and Canada took almost a decade to negotiate.

The Prime Minister, meanwhile, continues to suggest that no deal is a viable option for the UK – without acknowledging that no deal is, almost by definition, a terrible deal for the UK. My very simple view is that no Brexit has to be preferrable to no deal.

And the UK Government, perhaps most fundamentally of all, is still delaying setting out a clear proposition on the big issue it faces or what the end relationship is that it is seeking to negotiate. Everybody knows that, as in any negotiation, there will require to be trade offs – for example, between abiding by European regulations in order to gain access to the single market on the one hand, and on the other hand having the freedom and flexibility to negotiate separate trade deals outside of the EU.

In fact, the UK Cabinet has scarcely even begun to discuss some of these issues, let alone agree or articulate a clear position on them. Instead, we are still told that the UK can have everything it wants – regulatory flexibility, the freedom to strike trade deals with other countries and the full benefits of the single market – despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

So I think 2018 – a crucial year in so many different respects – is going to be inevitably the year that rhetoric finally meets reality. And when we look back over the last six months of last year, what we saw was that on every issue of substance where agreement in the first phase of negotiations had to be reached – for example the timetable for talks, on much of the situation around EU citizens or on settling the UK’s budget obligations – the UK Government started with a completely unrealistic position, and then on all of these issues was forced to capitulate and finally agree position that had been the starting point of the EU all along.

That is almost certain to happen all over again if the plan is to stick to unrealistic positions. Far better, surely, to stop wasting time and to stop squandering goodwill and instead embark on this next phase of negotiations with a sensible and credible position at the outset.

In my view and the view of the Scottish Government, the only sensible post Brexit position for the UK is continued membership of the Single Market and Customs Union.

Let me be clear, I don’t think that is a perfect position – it is not as good as membership of the EU. The EU is not a perfect institution – it has many flaws but I think our interests are best served being in rather than out. Being in something short of that is not the perfect position but being in the Single Market is far preferable to any of the quite limited number of alternative future relationships.

In my view – and of course you won’t be surprised to hear me say this – every month that has passed since the referendum has borne out the logic of that position. If the UK leaves the EU, the least damaging way of doing so is to retain membership of the Single Market and Customs Union.

The economic importance of that was highlighted in the paper the Scottish Government published yesterday. Yesterday we published the most extensive economic modeling of the potential future relationships that has been done by anybody so far, which perhaps speaks volumes in itself about the approach the UK government has taken. They have yet to publish modeling and impact assessment of that nature of their own.

The modeling that we published yesterday shows very clearly that, although all forms of Brexit are likely to harm our economy in some way – for example reducing our exports to the UK’s largest market but also by extension reduce our productivity and over the longer term restrict our ability to attract talent to our country. So all of our future options will do some damage to our economy. There is no doubt that harder brexit will cause significantly greater damage. Our modelling looks at what are, probably the only three realistic options when the UK leaves the EU for the future relationship. They are the so called no deal option where the UK reverts to World Trade Organisation terms. Secondly, there’s the option which the UK government says is its favoured option – the negotiation of a free trade agreement, perhaps similar to the one with Canada with bits added on to it. Or thirdly, Single Market and Customs Union membership.

What the evidence we publised yesterday shows is that the no deal outcome will cost our economy by 2030 around £2300 per head of population, compared to what our economy would do if we stayed in the EU. With a free trade agreement the loss in GDP will be around £1600 per head. And if we stay in the single market, that loss will be around £700 per head.

So, there is no cost free option to leaving the EU – but staying in the single market minimises the damage and that surely must be a priority for all of us.

There is also, in addition to the economic argument, to my mind, a fundamental democratic point here. The EU referendum gave no clear mandate for leaving the single market – in fact, during the campaign leave campaigners were often very confused among themselves about this issue of the Single Market.

So the idea that leaving the EU requires us to leave the Single Market is simply an assertion. It is an interpretation of the referendum result, I don’t think it is more than that.

And actually, given the closeness of the EU referendum result across the UK –
And indeed the fact that two of the four nations in the UK actually voted to stay in the EU – surely a soft brexit, rather than a hard Brexit, should be the default position?

Single market membership isn’t just the best way of minimising the economic harm of Brexit; it is the obvious democratic compromise in a UK where opinion on this issue is deeply divided.

So my priority for the year ahead in terms of trying to influence the UK’s approach to this is to make the case for Single Market and Customs Union membership.

I believe that is a position which can and should command majority support both across the country and in the UK parliament. As First Minister and as leader of my party, I will try to work with anyone and everyone – across the political spectrum and across the UK generally – to contribute towards what I think is not the best option for the UK but the least worst option if the UK is intent on leaving the EU.

The duty to proceed in a way that respects the views of all parts of the UK is also relevant to the current debate over the EU Withdrawal Bill. That bill is back in the House of Commons this evening before it goes next to the House of Lords.

That bill is important – it is a highly technical piece of legislation but it is an important one. It is currently the subject of discussions between the devolved governments and the UK Government. Both the Welsh and the Scottish governments have indicated that in its current form we couldn’t recommend to our respective parliaments that they approve that bill. It is subject to the legislative consent process.

Now I should be clear that we as the Scottish Government, although we oppose Brexit, we accept the basic intention behind the bill. If the UK is to leave the EU, no matter how regrettable that is, there has to be a legal mechanism which allows EU law to be carried over into English and Scottish law at the point of Brexit.

However, the way in which the UK Government has chosen to enact the bill runs completely counter to the basic principles of devolution. In particular, clause 11 of the bill prevents the Scottish Parliament, post Brexit, from making any changes to devolved areas, such as justice or agriculture, if those changes would not have previously been allowed under EU law. However, it allows the UK Government to make changes in these areas. So effectively, the bill as it stands, gives the UK Government complete freedom to legislate in areas currently devolved to the Scottish Parliament without first getting the consent of the Scottish Parliament.

These provisions are hugely problematic. On a practical level, they massively increase the complexity of the devolution settlement. For example as the EU’s own rules evolve and change, it will create an ongoing uncertainty about what the Scottish Parliament is and isn’t allowed to do in devolved areas.

But more fundamentally than that, they undermine a basic principle of devolution – the whole principle underpinning the Scotland Act that is the the foundation legislation of the Scottish Parliament is that all policy matters are devolved to Scotland unless they are specifically reserved under the Scotland Act. Effectively it is saying that in these matters that are repatriated, everything is reserved unless the UK government in future decides to devolve them. That is why Professor Nicola McEwen, of the Centre on Constitutional Change, said a few months ago – “Clause 11 cuts across the existing devolution settlements. UK government ministers… do not seem to get this.”

Just last week the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Legislation Committee unanimously recommended that consent should not be granted to the EU Withdrawal bill in its current form. It’s worth repeating that point – all parties agreed that consent should not be granted. It’s fair to say that Scottish political parties don’t often come together and unite on constitutional questions – so that gives some idea of the scale of the UK Government’s achievement here!

It was actually in my speech to the David Hume Institute this time last year that I first raised this prospect, this concern that the Scottish Government had. This process of Brexit was going to result in a power grab – I remember making that speech and lots of the commentary from other political parties and media was that was nonsense and I was scaremongering. Here we are a year on and there is unanimous opinion in the Scottish Parliament that that is in fact what that bill represents.

So we have work to do if we are to protect the principles of devolution to change that bill before it passes. We were promised UK Government’s amendments would have been lodged by this stage. I think all parties have been unanimous in their disappointment that has not happened. In fact there won’t be amendments lodged before the House of Commons – the amendments will have to be lodged in the House of Lords which actually raises its own democratic issues. On a matter of such fundamental importance to devolution and the principles underpinning it, it will be the House of Lords that has to decide on these amendments.

I hope we can reach a settlement and an agreement on this and we are still working hard to do that. But I think it is fair to say that while there is still the prospect of reaching agreement, and we will continue to do what we can to deliver that, the prospects are reducing rather than increasing.

As a result, the Scottish Government – with some regret – has been required to prepare our own EU Continuity Bill. It means that even if we cannot reach an agreement on the UK’s withdrawal bill, Scottish legislation will be able to protect Scotland’s laws from disruption caused by Brexit. That is not our preferred way forward. There is an argument that this legislation should be done UK wide but we cannot allow it to be done in such a way that it fundamentally undermines the very principles our parliament is built. So I hope we will reach agreement but we are prepared for the eventuality in which we don’t.

The challenges posed by Brexit – and they are many and varied – are at least in part best met by a further devolution of powers thoughout the UK, not a further centralisation of powers. The Scottish Parliament would benefit in particular from further powers over immigration, welfare, trade, employment and employability. But in particular, given some of the challenges we face, the Scottish Parliament would benefit hugely and Scotland would benefit hugely with greater powers and greater flexibility over migration.

Migration is the issue I want to focus on for the rest of my speech this evening – since it was so central to the EU referendum debate, but more importantly, it’s an area where Scotland’s needs and requirements are actually very different from the rest of the UK that the case for a different approach here is, to my mind, overwhelming. Not uncontroversial, but overwhelming in face of the evidence. I say not uncontroversial because I am aware – and John curtice produced very interesting research on this last week – that there isn’t yet a clear public consensus behind having a distinct migration policy in Scotland.

Add to that, the fact immigration is not an easy issue for politicians to be talking about.

But, given some of the stark projections that I am about to talk about, I believe really strongly there is a duty on us – on politicians across the UK, and particulary here in Scotland – both to spell out the importance of being able to attract skills and talent from other countries and also to provide evidence and reassurance where it is needed about the benefits that migration brings to our economy and our wider society.

I thin there is a pressing need for all of us to try and change the narrative around immigration and free movement. When the impact of ending free movement within the EU is discussed, a lot of the focus tends to be on the immediate consequences for specific sectors of our economy. That’s very understandable. For many core public services, and key sectors for our economy, EU migration is absolutely crucial.

More than half of the people who work in food processing industry are EU citizens; so are more than a quarter of our higher education researchers, and almost a tenth of the workers in our tourism sector.

The potential consequences of reduced migration to those sectors are very important. And they are certainly one reason – among many – why I have been so determined, ever since the referendum, to ensure the rights of EU citizens are given priority and protected, and that EU citizens know that Scotland welcomes the contribution they make here and we want them to stay and to keep making that contribution.

I want to focus today on an issue which transcends the immediate consequences of Brexit on specific sectors and talk instead about the consequences of any restriction in our ability to attract skills and talent here for our overall population level and economic prospects well into the future.

The figures here are stark. They should make all of us sit up and take notice. If you look at population projections for the UK as a whole, over the next 25 years, three fifths of the predicted population increase for the UK is projected to come from immigration, and two fifths is projected to come from natural change – births will outnumber deaths.

In Scotland though that is not the picture. All of our projected population growth is estimated to come from inward migration. Births are not expected to outnumber deaths in any of the next 25 years.

So without inward migration, our population will start to fall rather than rise. So we need to think seriously about this in terms of our prospects for the future. If we wee our population, particularly our working age population, decline at a time we know people are living longer so our pensioner population is growing, then we will see that affect our overall economic growth. We will see it have an impact on our living standards. We will see the number of people in the workforce decline – that will make it more difficult to fund our public services. Actually the Scottish Fiscal Commission pointed to this as a real concern in their economic and fiscal forecasts last month. They’ve predicted reduced income tax receipts as a direct consequence of less immigration and a lower working age population is something that we need to think about.

Now, there is evidence that support for parents can increase the birth rate. So the package of policies which we’re adopting with the aim of making this the best country in the world to grow up in are important – all of that in time could lead to a higher birth rate. But that isn’t certain, and of course it takes around two decades before an increased rate of childbirth leads to an increased size of workforce. So in the short and medium term, and probably in the long term, we have a significantly greater need for migration in Scotland than the rest of the UK.

This isn’t a new issue. This was an issue faced at the outset of the Scottish Parliament and it was an issue that was recognised very expressly in those early days. That’s why the previous Labour – Liberal Democrat administration – with cross-party support at the time – worked to introduce the Fresh Talent initiative in Scotland. It allowed people to stay and work in Scotland for up to two years after they had finished studying even when they weren’t allowed to do that in the rest of the UK.

However the Fresh Talent initiative – perhaps because of its success – was then included within the wider UK immigration system. And when the UK Government decided to restrict immigration in 2012, they ended the post-study work visa – because it was by then a UK policy and that meant it ended in Scotland as well.

I think that Fresh Talent is worth mentioning because it is a good example of how sensible, practical, proportionate immigration policies have been enabled in order to allow us to address a particular problem

And Fresh Talent is important for another reason because it demonstrates that it is possible – that a distinctive immigration policy, which is often thought to be something that is completely unworkable in Scotland has actually, on a relatively small scale, has been demonstrated to be possible and to work in the past.
We also know differentiated migration policies work in other countries. If you take Australia as an example, different states have discretion to set different immigration standards and requirements. South Australia has its own immigration office. The same is true in Canada. And in Switzerland, cantons have the autonomy to run their own immigration systems.

So it’s not surprising that three years ago, the Smith Commission – whose recommendations were signed off by all parties – recommended the reintroduction of the post-study work visa.

That has not been implemented yet, and there are no plans on the part of the UK government at this stage to do it. But I think these things have to be looked at again if we are to address these real challenges that we face.

That’s why the Scottish Government will soon publish proposals for powers over immigration to be devolved. The reintroduction of the post-work study visa is one of those proposals.

We also argue that students in Scotland should not count within the UK’s targets and will argue for a more distinctive approach on family migration. We believe that it is counterproductive to restrict the ability of British citizens to bring family members home. So these are concrete proposals we’ll put forward in the near future and I hope they meet with a constructive attitude.

The last point I want to make here, is this argument for a distinctive immigration policy, which, although it is meant to address a distinctive challenge we face, also I suppose is a recognition that the debate about Scotland’s place in Europe isn’t simply about trade rules and regulations – important though they are. It’s fundamentally a debate about who we are, about what sort of country we are and what kind of country we aspire to be in the future. It is so important for us in these crucial months that lie ahead to do everything we can to ensure that we remain an inclusive, welcoming, outward-looking country – a country which is determined to continue to contribute to the world in which we live, but one which is also open to new people and new ideas. We want to attact to our shores the best talent from anywhere in the world.

I began this speech by mentioning David Cameron’s Bloomberg speech five years ago. 2018 also, of course, sees the 20th anniversary of the Scotland Act’s passage through the UK parliament.

And so twenty years ago last week, that bill was being debated on the floor of the House of Commons. Donald Dewar, introducing that debate, made several remarks which turned out to be prescient. He described the Scottish Parliament as offering “a new dimension” to Scotland’s representation in Europe.

We must be determined throughout this year, throughout the twists and turns the year will take, to do everything we can to maintain and strengthen that voice and that role in Europe and the wider world. That’s why arguing at least for us to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union is important for economic and for wider reasons. But it is also why it is so important that we don’t allow the devolution settlement to be undermined; and it is why it is also important that we seek the new powers for immigration or in other areas that allow us in Scotland to retain and to build and to enhance that place in Europe and the world.

2018 provides a lot of challenges but it also provides a lot of opportunity – as the realities of Brexit finally have to be confronted – to build support for these measures, not simply in Scotland, but across the UK. Because if we do build that support and that consensus we’ll minimise the economic harms of Brexit but we’ll also be able to safeguard Scotland’s place as a good global citizen. And in doing that, I think we’ll bring benefits, not just to Scotland, but to people right across the UK. That is what I hope we can achieve in the year ahead to make sure the future for our country remains a bright, open and welcoming one.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon David Hume Institute 16 January 2018

Source: Scotland after Brexit

(You can listen to the speech by clicking here)

Single Market Essential For Scotland

New economic impact analysis by the Scottish Government confirms that in the event of Brexit taking place, the best way to protect the economy would be to remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union.

A failure to remain in the Single Market or to secure a free trade agreement would see Scotland’s GDP around £12.7 billion lower by 2030 than it would be under continued EU membership.

This would mean a loss equivalent to £2,300 per year for each person in Scotland.

The analysis takes account of the impact on trade, productivity and migration of different future relationships. It shows that a so called ‘Canada-type’ deal with the EU would still leave Scotland’s GDP £9 billion lower by 2030 – or £1,610 per head.

Other key findings include:

Remaining within the Single Market could see an additional benefit to Scotland’s economy if the EU makes progress on completing the Single Market in services, energy and the digital economy
Continued migration from the EU in line with Freedom of Movement is required to support continued economic growth, with each additional EU citizen working in Scotland currently contributing an average of £10,400 in tax revenue
Any relationship with the EU short of remaining in the Single Market could have a significant impact on social protections, environmental and consumer policies
Publishing the new analysis Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“By insisting on hard-line pre-conditions the UK Government is itself closing the doors on what can be achieved in talks with the EU on the future relationship.

“The aim of the Scottish Government, and the evidence presented in this paper, is to start opening those doors again.

“For the sake of jobs, the economy and the next generation, today we are calling on the UK Government to drop its hard Brexit red-lines so that Scotland and the UK can stay inside the Single Market and Customs Union.

“Scotland is particularly well-placed to take advantage of the developing and deepening Single Market – the world’s biggest economy of 500 million people, eight times the size of the UK.

“Our brilliant world-class universities, our unrivalled potential in renewable energy, our life sciences industry, our digital sector and other key areas of the Scottish economy are all in prime position to reap the rewards of these developments.

“That will mean more jobs and higher wages. It would be a tragedy for future generations if we let that opportunity pass us by.

“The fact that the Prime Minister wants to leave not only the political structures of the EU but come out of the European Economic Area shows just how extreme the UK Government position is. With just weeks to go before the opening of talks on the future relationship that extreme stance must be dropped.”

Minister for Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell said:

“People in Scotland voted decisively to remain in the European Union and we continue to believe this is the best option for Scotland and the UK as a whole. Short of EU membership, the Scottish Government believes the UK and Scotland must stay inside the Single Market and Customs Union.

“The decisions taken in the next few months will be crucial for jobs, wages and opportunities for generations to come and it is vital that the Scottish Government are properly engaged in these decisions.”


Read the full analysis paper here;


Jobs and living standards must come first.

Source: Analysis shows Single Market essential for Scotland

Keeping Scotland in Europe

“Next few months are a window of opportunity” says First Minister.

Source: Keeping Scotland in Europe

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said today that the first few months of 2018 are a window of opportunity for all those working to protect Scotland’s place in Europe and particularly our membership of the European Single Market.

The First Minister said the Scottish Government will this month publish an analysis of the economic impact of each of the likely post-Brexit trade options facing the UK. The analysis will be included in a forthcoming paper from the government on Scotland’s future relationship with Europe.

Ms Sturgeon said talks on the UK’s future relationship with the EU are expected to start at the end of March.

The First Minister said:

“The UK Government had to give up on all of its hard-line positions in phase one of the talks which ended in December. That shows that they can and should be forced to adopt a more sensible approach going into the next stage.

“The Scottish Government believes that continued membership of the EU is the best option for Scotland and the rest of the UK. However, if the UK Government is intent on Brexit, it must ensure that the damage to our society and economy is minimised. Quite simply, that means staying in the European Single Market.

“Now is therefore the time for all those determined to keep Scotland and the UK in the Single Market – the world’s richest marketplace, of 500 million people – to speak up and work together. These next few months are a window of opportunity.

“The Scottish Government will shortly set out the realistic options facing the UK outside the EU – reverting to World Trade Organisation rules, a basic free trade deal or remaining within the Single Market and Customs Union.

“We will detail the impact each will have on incomes, economic growth,  investment, productivity and other economic measures that will determine our prosperity.

“Over the coming months we will also set out the new opportunities for Scotland if we stay inside the developing Single Market and Customs Union, and why it is essential that we have the ability to continue to attract workers to Scotland.

“The decisions taken in the next few months will be crucial for jobs, wages and opportunities for future generations.”

Thanking NHS staff

First Minister pays tribute to hard work over winter.

Source: Thanking NHS staff
First Minister pays tribute to hard work over winter.

Ministers today thanked NHS staff for their hard work and dedication over the festive season.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met call handlers at the Scottish Ambulance Service and NHS 24 control centre in Cardonald, Glasgow, to hear first-hand how they have dealt with the challenges, and to pay tribute to their on-going commitment.

Health Secretary Shona Robison also visited Perth Royal Infirmary to thank staff. She visited the Accident and Emergency and Medical Wards, and the Discharge Hub to find out about work to reduce delayed discharge.

This Christmas has seen the number of people in Scotland suffering from flu double compared to the same period last year.

The First Minister said: “Winter is always a busy time for our NHS, but this year has been exceptional. Everyone in the health service has worked extremely hard to deal with the additional pressures they’ve faced over the last few weeks.

“Thousands of staff across Scotland have missed out on precious time with friends and family to make sure patients have received the care and treatment they need over winter.

“I am very proud of all the NHS staff achievements in delivering this care during this period of sustained pressure, and we are determined to support them through this.

“The call handlers and NHS 24 staff I met today, and the Out of Hours teams they work with in each health board, do a tremendous job to keep the system moving and to alleviate some of the pressures on front line services.

“Our NHS and community health service do a fantastic job all year round, and I’d like to thank them once again for the dedication they have shown during this exceptionally busy winter period.”

Ms Robison said: “NHS Boards have robust planning in place for winter and we’re investing an extra £22.4 million across the NHS to deal with these exceptional pressures.

“We are working very closely with all NHS Boards to monitor the extent of pressures across Scotland.

“Individual boards will respond to pressures they are facing in line with winter planning. In some cases, this may involve deferral of outpatient or elective treatment. However, people across Scotland should be reassured that there is no blanket cancellation of non-urgent elective procedures for the month of January as is the case elsewhere in the UK.

“We can all play a part in ensuring demand on our most acute services is minimised by taking time to think of the best way to access advice and treatment – for example by using a pharmacy or a minor injuries unit for minor ailments or seeking health advice for some of the most common conditions at this time of year through NHS inform.”

Nicola Sturgeon’ No Brexit better than no deal’

Nicola Sturgeon has described a no-deal Brexit as “unthinkable”, saying that “no Brexit is preferable to no deal”.

Scotland’s first minister called Brexit a “horror show”, saying she was seeking the “least damaging” outcome inside the single market.

Theresa May is said to be considering appointing a minister for a no deal Brexit in a reshuffle of her cabinet.

But Ms Sturgeon said this approach “beggars belief”, saying Ms May was “appeasing hard-line Brexiteers”.

Scotland’s first minister tells the BBC that single market membership is the “least damaging” outcome to Brexit.

Source: Sturgeon: ‘No Brexit better than no deal’

Save Our Banks

By 23/12/17

Communities across Scotland, particular in our rural areas, are rightly concerned about the impact the decision by RBS to close branches, including in some cases the last branch in the community, will have on local businesses, employees, the elderly and vulnerable and all those who need access to banking services.

I know that more and more of us do our banking on the internet or by phone but that simply isn’t an option for everyone. RBS and the banking industry need to think again.

Many older or vulnerable members of our communities rely on branches to conduct their banking, and while banks have a duty to support people to transfer to mobile or online banking, for many that simply won’t be something they feel safe or comfortable doing.

Equally mobile and online banking doesn’t solve the problems of businesses, many of whom in rural communities will still take cash and who without local branches will now have to take significant time out of their working day to travel to the remaining branches to deposit their takings or to speak to someone if they need face to face for business advice.

Since the decision by RBS was announced the Scottish Government has stood side by side with the communities and employees affected. We have called on the UK Government as the government responsible for banking, and as part owners of RBS, to step up to the plate. We have asked them to establish and enforce a guaranteed minimum level of service provision for essential banking services, recognising the importance of continued access to banking for towns and communities across Scotland.

It was deeply disappointing this week to hear the Prime Minister continue to brush off my Westminster colleagues requests for the government to step in with party political attacks when she should have been standing up for the public interest.

The Scottish Government will continue to do everything it can to support affected staff and to identify solutions that will preserve access to essential banking services for customers and communities throughout the country but ultimately it is only the UK government that can act to stop these branch closures and that’s why campaigns like the Press and Journal’s campaign to Save our Banks are essential to add to the pressure and to force RBS and the UK government to provide a better service to rural Scotland.


Scottish Rural Action launch survey on rural RBS branch closures.


Featured photo is a Screengrab from

RBS to Move, London, Scotland, Votes Yes
Old news

Nicola Sturgeon, Broadband Delivery

Earlier in week, I said a Scottish Tory MP was talking nonsense on broadband delivery. In the interests of informed debate on an important issue, I thought I’d set out some key facts. This is the first chance I’ve had, so here follows a short thread…
1/ Scotland is on track to meet our target of 95% of premises having fibre broadband access by end 2017. If we’d left it to the market, only 66% would have access…
2/ to get to 95%, the Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme was established. More of the public funding for this programme comes from the Scottish Government, Highlands & Islands Enterprise and Scottish councils than from the UK government…
3/ the most recent OfCom State of the Nation report shows that in the last year, Scotland made faster progress in broadband roll out than other UK nations – 14% in Scotland compared to 7% in rest of UK. ..
4/ Scotland’s new target to deliver superfast broadband to 100% of residential and business premises by 2021 is more ambitious than the UK government’s equivalent commitment…
5/ in Scotland, our 100% commitment is to speeds of 30mbps, delivered through significant @scotgov funding. In rUK, commitment is to speeds of only 10mbps, funded by higher access charges not public funding…
6/ so work to do, but good @scotgov delivery/commitment on an issue of huge importance to people across the country.