A statutory requirement of every Government, the annual Budget Bill provides parliamentary approval for its spending plans, allowing the allocation of resources to strategic objectives.
The detail won’t be known until later this month when Finance Secretary John Swinney will set out a spending review and an economic strategy, which he says will support progress towards his vision of a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish through increasing sustainable economic growth.
Mr Salmond’s view that the Westminster Government’s approach to the economy is wrong is well-known, and his Finance Secretary will try to find a way to promote capital investment, improve access to finance -- particularly for smaller businesses -- and restore confidence among companies and consumers.
Unlike previous years when he was Finance Secretary in a minority government, the SNP’s overall majority at Holyrood means Mr Swinney will have to spend little time negotiating with other parties to get his way.
National Library of Scotland Bill
This will modernise governance arrangements which were established in 1925, enabling the NLS to update and develop its services and functions for the 21st century and respond to the changing needs of its customers.
NLS is Scotland’s only legal deposit library and can claim copies of anything published in the UK. A national resource and one of the major research libraries in Europe, it offers free access to a collection of more than 14 million items -- which include the last letter written by Mary, Queen of Scots, and the first printed book, the Gutenberg Bible of 1455.
There are 70,000 visits a year to the reading room and 2.5 million calls on the digital library.
The bill will define the functions of NLS and update its powers in line with those of modern public bodies. The National Library of Scotland Act of 1925 did not specifically provide for the board’s functions, which have evolved since that time.
The only opposition may come from some of the board who will lose their jobs as the Government cuts its size, removes reserved places and ensures all appointments are made by ministers.
Land Registration (Scotland) Bill
This will reform the law of Land Registration implementing a report by the Scottish Law Commission.
The current land registration system in Scotland is based on a 1979 Act and is in need of reform to ensure the completion of the Land Register and to improve the state guarantee of land titles.
Key proposals in the bill provide for the continuation and improvement of the land registration system, the completion of the Land Register, the realignment of registration law with property law, introducing a system of “advance notices” for conveyancing transactions, and amending the law to allow for electronic conveyancing
The proposals are expected to accelerate the process of land registration and increase the number of property titles backed by state guarantee under the Land Register.
The objective is to develop Scotland’s water resources as a tool of economic growth and an environmental asset that will significantly contribute to the transition to a low carbon economy.
To maximise the value of Scotland’s water sector, the Government will create a strategic co-ordination group to advise it on the way forward. All public bodies will be required to contribute to the implementation of the strategy.
The Government says it will provide Scottish Water with clarity on its powers, ensuring it is structured to enable it to develop its full potential and requiring it to facilitate the development of Scotland’s water resources to maximise their value.
It will also update legislation on the management of drought orders, the control of certain substances in the water environment and the management of septic tanks.
Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill
The Government is developing consultation proposals with a view to legislation on management measures for farmed fish and wild salmon and freshwater fisheries.
This legislation will update enforcement provisions including those covering sea fisheries, application of European Union restrictions and obligations, and the scope and level of fixed penalties for offences.
The Government also proposes to amend and update sea fisheries legislation and to provide continued protection in waters where shellfish are grown.
Legal Aid & Scottish Civil Justice Council Bill
This bill will make provision for the levying of financial contributions in criminal legal aid, ensuring that those who are able to pay a contribution to the costs of their defence do so.
The introduction of contributions into criminal legal aid could produce savings of between £2.5 million and £5m a year to the legal aid fund and will reinforce the principle that those who can afford to pay towards their costs should do so.
The bill will also establish a Scottish Civil Justice Council to replace the existing civil rules councils, with a wider policy role to advise and make recommendations on improving the civil justice system.
The Government believes an efficient publicly funded criminal legal assistance system contributes to an efficient criminal justice system and that the establishment of the council will contribute to making Scotland a more attractive place to do business, improve services for court users as well as improving the accessibility, efficiency, effectiveness and fairness of the civil justice system.
Long Leases (Scotland) Bill
The Scottish Government will bring forward legislation to convert ultra-long leases to ownership, implementing a report by the Scottish Law Commission (SLC).
A Bill was introduced in the last Parliament but, due to time pressures, it fell when Parliament was dissolved for the election. The ultra-long leases to be covered by the bill were let for more than 175 years and have more than 100 years left to run.
The legislation forms part of a programme of property law reform carried out by the SLC, including the abolition of feudal tenure which was enacted by the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000.
The Scottish Government estimates that there are around 9000 ultra-long leases in Scotland. They were often granted by landed estates and tend to be concentrated in specific parts of the country.
The SLC report indicates that legal practitioners are aware of ultra-long leases in Alva, Ardrossan, Saltcoats, Stevenston and Wishaw.
Essentially this will simplify an area of property law.
Criminal Cases (Punishment & Review) (Scotland) Bill
Gives statutory authority to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to decide whether it is appropriate to publish a Statement of Reasons in cases they have investigated where an appeal has subsequently been abandoned.
This is the reform which will allow the Commission to publish information on why Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi’s appeal against his conviction for the Lockerbie bombing was withdrawn, though it will, of course, apply to all cases.
Under the current law the commission is prohibited from disclosing information it holds relating to cases other than in very limited circumstances.
The bill requires the commission, in determining whether it is appropriate to publish information, to consult those affected by it.
It also maintains “appropriate provision” for international obligations to information provided by foreign authorities so that where information is obtained under international assistance arrangements from a foreign country, the consent of that country is required before the commission can publish the information.
Rights of Children & Young People Bill
This will enshrine in law Scottish Ministers’ duty to have due regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) when exercising their responsibilities.
UNcontentious legislation supporting the UNCRC’s guidelines over the civil, political, economic, social and cultural human rights of all children up to the age of 18.
The Government says it is committed to creating a modern, inclusive Scotland that respects and protects human rights and, in particular, to recognising, respecting and promoting children’s rights as part of its wider commitment to improving life chances.
The bill will ensure that all of the Scottish Government’s policies and legislation take account of and promote the rights of children and young people, and aims to set an example for the wider public sector.
Consultation on the bill begins today and forms part of a much wider reform of children’s services which will include a Children’s Services Bill planned for 2013.
Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill
The Government wants to adjust the Freedom of Information “regime” where it claims it is “necessary and sensible to do so”.
The Government says it supports Freedom of Information as an essential part of open democratic government and responsive public services and is committed to operating within the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
It claims the Freedom of Information Amendment Bill will propose changes to the Act intended to add strength and clarity to the legislation.
However, in the run-up to the election Alex Salmond’s Government is claimed to have cost taxpayers £100,000 by going to the Court of Session in a bid to prevent the publication of papers which showed its plans for a local income tax would have left a funding shortfall of £396 million this year.
The Government later dropped its legal challenge.
Opposition parties will want to keep a close eye on the Government’s plans.
Council Tax Bill
The aim is to ensure a more efficient use of housing and funding for housing by making better use of existing homes which are empty.
ABOUT 25,000 homes in Scotland have been empty for at least six months and the Government believes this is a wasted resource which could be used to tackle homelessness. The bill will give councils the power to remove existing discounts and to charge an additional levy on the Council Tax on homes which have been empty for six months or more.
The Government believes the legislation will increase the number of homes available to those who need them, by encouraging owners to rent or sell their properties rather than leaving them empty. It will also raise extra revenue for local authorities to spend on providing more affordable housing. If all councils use the new powers, they could raise up to £30 million a year.
Social Care Self Directed Support Bill
THIS is intended to improve public services by making them more responsive to local people’s needs.
This is part of a 10-year programme of reform, placing greater control and responsibility in the hands of citizens.
The Government says it will set out a consistent, and clear framework in law, impose firm duties on local authorities, set out the options available to citizens and make it clear that it is their choice on how much control they want to have, and widen eligibility to those who have been excluded, such as carers.
It should also consolidate, modernise and clarify existing laws on direct payments.
Agricultural Holdings Bill
This legislation will encourage landlords to let farmland to tenant farmers.
The aim is to have as much farmland as possible being made available for let to ensure it is being used as productively as possible. It could encourage new entrants into tenant farming by extending the definition of a near relative to include grandchildren, making it easier for them to inherit tenancies.
It will prohibit provisions from being included in leasing arrangements for “upward only” or “landlord only” initiated rent reviews.
There is also a provision that will clarify changes in rent arising from alterations to VAT, or the exercise by a landlord of an option to tax does not constitute a “variation of rent”, which would prevent either a landlord or tenant farmer from seeking a determination from the Scottish Land Court on the rent for a period of three years.