Sturgeon To Unveil Programme For Government

Nicola Sturgeon will unveil her legislative plans for the coming year with a focus on education amid warnings against further moves towards a second independence referendum.

The First Minister will underline her priorities by visiting a school before setting out her 2016/17 programme for government to MSPs at Holyrood.

She will highlight 29 new or refurbished school buildings due to open to pupils during this academic year under the Scottish Government's £1.8 billion Schools for the Future programme.

Ms Sturgeon said her "ambitious'' legislative programme, based on the SNP's manifesto for the Holyrood elections, would "deliver the very best for Scotland''.

Speaking before a visit to see construction work under way at Edinburgh's new Boroughmuir High School, she said: "Education is at the heart of our plans and I am committed to doing all I can to improve the life chances of every child and young person.

"Ensuring children are able to learn in new, modern, fit-for-purpose surroundings is a crucial part of this.

"By the end of this parliament we will have delivered 112 new or refurbished schools across every local authority in Scotland - more than double the number envisaged when the Schools for the Future programme started.

"These new school building projects also provide an important boost to local economies through the creation of construction jobs and apprenticeships.

"This is key to our commitment to boost the Scottish economy through infrastructure investment.

"Last month, I announced £100 million spending on infrastructure in this financial year and later today I'll also outline the key priorities for my government in the year ahead.''

Ms Sturgeon has said the programme will set out further steps to close the attainment gap, with school reforms put "centre stage''.

It will also include measures to stimulate the economy through any Brexit uncertainty, tackle child poverty, expand early-years education and build a "fair'' social security system.

On health, Ms Sturgeon will set out plans to expand NHS primary, community and social care services, build five new elective treatment centres and improve mental health care.

She has also pledged to unveil new measures on community empowerment, land reform, tackling domestic abuse and improving gender balance.

In the days following June's vote to leave the EU, Ms Sturgeon said she had tasked Scottish Government officials with drafting fresh referendum legislation for Holyrood, which Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Tories have said they will oppose.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: "The SNP government today has the opportunity to lay a Programme for Government before the most powerful Scottish Parliament ever. They must not waste the opportunity to transform Scotland for the better.

"Labour is the only party talking about Scotland's future rather than the arguments of the past.

"If the centrepiece of the SNP's programme today is another divisive referendum rather than a bold and radical plan to make Scotland fairer, stronger and more prosperous, it will be a missed opportunity.''

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