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Nicola Sturgeon to lay out plans for Scottish government

Nicola Sturgeon to lay out plans for Scottish government

Nicola Sturgeon is set to make education the centrepiece of her programme for government speech
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is to set out her programme for government for the coming year at Holyrood.The SNP leader has promised her "most ambitious plan ever", with education expected to be the principal focus.An Education Governance Bill is one of more than a dozen expected, with action on the economy, housing and the environment also planned.A deposit return scheme to cut plastic waste is also expected to be announced. Opposition parties will get a chance to outline their priorities in three days of debate following the speech.
Prior to the summer recess, the first minister indicated that she would use the break to "take stock and refresh" her government, aiming for "creative, imaginative, bold and radical policies".Policies already trailed include an end to the 1% cap on public sector pay increases, which was the topic of heated debate at Holyrood earlier in the year, and legislation to pardon gay men convicted of same-sex offences before laws against homosexuality were dropped.
Follow the speech and debate on Holyrood Live
Sturgeon to scrap public sector pay cap
Gay men to receive 'Turing Law' pardons
Among the 16 bills expected, Ms Sturgeon has hinted at measures to protect the environment and improve the quality of housing as well as "major reforms in education, health and justice".She said improving the education and life chances of children remained "a defining mission" of her government, adding: "Our priority is to ensure that teachers are given the confidence and the space to teach to the highest standards. "We'll give our head teachers new powers and make sure parents, families and communities play a bigger role in school life and in their children's learning."There will also be a focus on the economy - the first minister has said that "Scotland's ambition is to be the inventor and the producer, not just a consumer, of the innovations that will shape the lives of our children and grandchildren".Ms Sturgeon is also expected to re-state her opposition to any "power grab" from the UK government over powers repatriated from Brussels during the Brexit process, and to reaffirm her support for staying in the European single market and customs union.
Opposition parties and backbench MSPs will have the opportunity to set out their priorities during the three days of debate set to follow Ms Sturgeon's speech - a day more than is usually scheduled.The Scottish Conservatives have called for legislation on local government funding, business rates and planning, the introduction of whole-life prison sentences and for expanded free personal care for dementia patients aged under 65.Education spokeswoman Liz Smith said people had "heard it all before" from the SNP over education, urging the government to "take on radical, prompt reform".Scottish Labour meanwhile has promoted policies including increases to child benefit, a 50p top rate of tax to fund services and bringing the railways into public ownership.Interim leader Alex Rowley said the SNP had "delivered little" over its decade in power, saying Scotland's slide in international educational league tables was "frankly embarrassing" for Ms Sturgeon.
Alternative programme
The Scottish Greens have already published their own alternative programme for government, with policies including a ban on fracking, a re-think on proposed cuts to airline taxes, and changes to income and local tax powers.Co-convener Patrick Harvie said these ideas could "revitalise Holyrood and create a fairer, greener Scotland".The Scottish Lib Dems meanwhile want a "pupil premium" funding boost to tackle the attainment gap, more money for colleges and a reassessment of teacher workloads and rewards.Leader Willie Rennie said the SNP "love to talk about education but they have repeatedly failed to deliver", challenging Ms Sturgeon to "commit to a transformative investment in Scottish education".
Willie Rennie
Nicola Sturgeon
Patrick Harvie
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