Scottish Executive's legislative programme for 2004 – 2005
briefing outlines the Scottish Executive's legislative programme for 2004 – 2005
as revealed by the First Minister on 7th September 2004. This includes
12 new Bills introduced by the Executive as well as 5 Bills which were introduced
prior to the summer recess.
New Bills:The Scottish Executive announced a dozen bills on the opening
day of the new Scottish Parliament building. Five bills are carried over from
the last session. The bills of most interest to UNISON Scotland are:
Health Service (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill
patchwork bill will introduce free eye and dental checks for all and modernise
the dental service. In the wake of organ retention scandals, it will also amend
the Anatomy Act, modernising and strengthening the rules on post-mortem examinations,
organ and tissue donation and transplantation. It allows Ministers to form or
take part in joint venture companies involving public and private sector partners.
See UNISON Scotland's response to the Scottish Executive Consultation: The Use
of Joint Ventures to Deliver Primary Care/Joint Premises http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/jventure.html.
There always has to be a Budget
Bill as a technical device to allow the executive to do its job. This one, to
be introduced in the new year, comes against a backdrop of a revamped enterprise
strategy, an updated approach to the Smart, Successful Scotland policy and the
first minister's pledge to seek public-sector efficiency savings of 2% over the
next three years. See UNISON Scotland Briefing on Parliament Budget 2003-04 http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/budget2003.html.
It will modernise council powers
to intervene and carry out work on privately-owned property falling into disrepair
and to promote area renewal. It will also add insulation and electrical safety
to existing rules on tolerable standards, and improve the rights of private sector
tenants and mobile home owners. It will also clear the way for ministers to bring
in a new system of single surveys provided by those selling a house, though this
would still require further legislation. This will be relevant to UNISON members
working in various areas of local authority housing and housing associations.
Further and Higher Education Bill
will merge the two funding councils covering the university and further education
college sectors to provide one strategic organisation for higher and further education.
This body would have the overview to spread best practice between the sectors,
signal where mergers between institutions might be beneficial. UNISON has no objections
to this Bill and does not forsee it affecting members in the field.
It will create a network of bodies modelled
on the Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive, the intention is to spread best
practice across Scotland while allowing local flexibility. These bodies will include
local business representatives. Ministers will have powers, through a new national
transport agency, to harmonise existing concessionary fare schemes for the elderly,
young and disabled currently operated by a variety of councils and bus operators.
There will also be a "new, independent watchdog" to monitor the quality of roadworks.
This has implications for UNISON members due to the transfer of some powers from
Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive and the creation of a new national transport
agency. There may also be implications on local authority staff with the creation
of regional transport partnerships and the extension of concessionary travel schemes
to the new national transport agency
Charities and Trustee
Investment (Scotland) Bill.
There is no definition
of charity, so for tax purposes bodies in Scotland borrow the English definition.
A new Scottish definition will be created as part of a general overhaul of the
law, with a new regulator created as an independent statutory body, with powers
to investigate and take action to prevent misconduct and protect funds.
regulation on fundraising will also be tightened. This should not have a major
impact on UNISON members working in the voluntary sector, however UNISON will
keep a watchful brief on the Bill as it unfolds.
Protection of Children
and Prevention of Sexual Offences Bill
It will strengthen
the law on predatory sex offenders who groom children on the internet. Even if
they never get as far as meeting the child, they could face 10 years in prison.
Chief constables will also be able to apply to a sheriff for a Risk of Harm Order
to restrict the activities of suspected sex offenders, even if they have never
been convicted. The big challenge for this bill will be to ensure that it is compliant
with the European Convention on Human Rights. This could have implications for
UNISON members who work in Children and Families' social work department.
Prevention of Female Genital Mutilation Bill
bill would make it a crime to send girls out of Scotland to have the operation
done overseas, with a penalty of five to 14 years in prison.
Much trailed and consulted upon, this will
aim to curb happy hours and other cheap drink promotions, it takes a fresh look
at licensing hours, and gives local communities a greater say on the proliferation
of pubs and off-licences which can be a focus for antisocial behaviour. The aim
is to cut binge drinking, lower alcohol-related crime and encourage safer socialising.
There would be a premises-by-premises approach to hours.
Consultation on this ended in June. It
will give unmarried fathers legal rights in recognition of the important role
fathers play in bringing up children. It will introduce legal safeguards for cohabiting
couples, allowing them to apply to courts for discretionary awards in the event
of breaking up or death. It will also reduce from five years to two years the
separation period constituting grounds for divorce.
Gaelic Language Bill
ne Gaidhlig will have a statutory role in developing the language and introducing
a National Gaelic Language Plan to encourage public bodies to promote and facilitate
this. The measures are seen as complementing current executive efforts in education,
broadcasting and the arts.
Environmental Assessment Bill
Part of the "Green Thread" commitment running through the
coalition's partnership agreement, this will insist that all new strategies, plans
and programmes developed by all public sector bodies take full account of both
positive and negative impacts on the environment. The public will have full right
to comment and authorities will have to consider alternatives which would better
There are currently five Executive
Bills that were introduced prior to the summer recess which still need to complete
their passage through Parliament. These are:
- The Fire (Scotland) Bill
Tenements (Scotland) Bill
- The Water Services (Scotland) Bill
Workers (Scotland) Bill
- School Education (Ministerial Powers and
Independent Schools) Bill
The Fire (Scotland) Bill
aims to improve fire safety and provide what the Executive describe as a 'modern
framework' for our fire services while the Tenements legislation will put in place
the final piece of the Executive's programme of property law reform.
The Water Services (Scotland) Bill aims to establish a modern regulatory framework
for water and sewerage services to safeguard public health, improve environmental
protection and provide fairness for customers. See UNISON Scotland Briefing: Water
The Emergency Workers (Scotland) Bill makes provision for statutory offences where
someone assaults, obstructs or hinders an emergency worker (as defined in the
Bill), or other persons assisting such a worker, in circumstances associated with
emergencies. See UNISON Scotland Briefing: Protect Emergency Workers http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/emergency.html.
The School Education Bill proposes new powers of ministerial intervention where
schools or education authorities are found to be failing to implement recommendations
of a report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education. In addition, there are
also separate proposals to update the registration and monitoring system for independent
schools. See UNISON Scotland Briefing: National Education Debate http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/briefings/education.html.
The full text of the First Minister's speech can be found at:
Executive | Scottish Parliament | Briefings Home