The First Minister said the next five years represent a “precious opportunity” to make real improvements for the benefit of future generations, as she urged parties across the parliament to seize that opportunity.
Nicola Sturgeon made the call as she outlined a comprehensive programme of action to improve the lives and opportunities of Scotland’s young people, to grow the economy, to transform and reform public services and to empower communities across the country.
With education at the heart of her priorities, the First Minister confirmed that the Scottish Government will bring forward a clear delivery plan to improve Scottish education before schools break for summer.
Ms Sturgeon also announced a major summit on school reform and raising attainment to collectively drive forward improvements in our schools and confirmed plans to review the funding formula for schools, including investing an extra £750 million over the next five years directly in school education. As part of this, head-teachers will be given more freedom and support to direct funds into learning.
Emphasising her commitment to delivering “world class public services”, the First Minister said those services must be underpinned by a strong economy as she announced an extension of the small business bonus scheme, to ensure 100,000 small businesses will not pay any business rates from next April. Ms Sturgeon also put the focus firmly on innovation and internationalisation with confirmation of an end to end review of our economic development and skills agencies to ensure they are delivering the support young people, our universities and our businesses need.
To support the rural economy, Ms Sturgeon announced that a route map for the delivery of broadband services to 100% of properties in Scotland would be published over the summer.
Focussing on the government’s determination to deliver opportunity for all the First Minister confirmed that, within a year, all children born in Scotland will receive a baby box to give them the best start in life. The Scottish Government will take early action to prepare for powers over social security, a maternity grant for new mothers and consideration of a young carers’ allowance.
Speaking in parliament, the First Minister said:
“I want our work to close the attainment gap to be the mission, not just of this government or even this parliament, but of the country as a whole.
I want it to be guided by the best possible evidence from around the world – that’s why I announced yesterday that I will establish an International Council of Education Advisers.
And I want it to be built – as far as possible – on consensus.
To that end, I can confirm today that over the next few months, we will convene a major summit on school reform and raising attainment – it will bring together all the key stakeholders in education to look at what each of us can do to help raise attainment and how collectively we drive this work forward. We will invite party leaders and education spokespeople to attend.
We will work hard to build consensus and partnership. What we will not do, though, is allow the search for consensus to result in inertia or in the lowest common denominator for action. We intend to be bold and to move forward with purpose and with pace.
We have a precious opportunity over the next five years to make real improvements for the benefit of this and future generations – we are absolutely determined to seize that opportunity.”