HUMZA Yousaf will announce a key step towards normalising a four-day working week as he tries to put his stamp on the Government he inherited from Nicola Sturgeon.

The First Minister is expected to announce a series of initiatives in the annual Programme for Government at Holyrood on Tuesday to differentiate himself from his predecessor.

With a general election next year and a Holyrood vote two years after that, the aim is to focus on solid, deliverable policies and avoid a repeat of recent failures. 

Mr Yousaf is expected to confirm a four-day working week will be piloted within parts of the public sector by the end of the calendar year.

It is understood to the experiment will run for around 12 months, with some government enterprise bodies having already expressed an interest in taking part.

If successful, it could be rolled out far more widely within central government, councils and quangoes, potentially acting as a catalyst for the private sector to follow suit.

Last year, a six-month pilot involving 61 companies employing 2,900 people in the UK ended with 56 firms reporting they would continue with the set-up, 18 permanently.

Employees reported feeling less stressed, anxious, fatigued and sleepless afterwards, while company revenues stayed broadly the same or higher.

Almost one in six employees said they would not accept a return to a five-day week because of the improved work-life balance.

The Programme for Government (PfG) contains the list of bills the Government plans to introduce at Holyrood in the coming year, most already identified in the SNP manifesto.

Bills on justice, the environment and tackling climate change are expected.

Although taxation is technically a matter for the Budget later in the autumn, Mr Yousaf is expected to address the issue in his speech to MSPs.

Opposition parties have warned his commitment to “progressive taxation” could mean income tax rises “hammering” families already struggling with rising bills.

To ease concerns, Mr Yousaf is expected to say that Scotland cannot tax its way out of the cost of living crisis, and that he is committed to growing the economy.

However progressive tax and spending decisions will remain part of the package.

Mr Yousaf sounded a cautious note on tax in an interview with the Daily Record yesterday in which he said he wanted to “reform” council tax, despite the SNP coming to power in 2007 on a promise to abolish and replace it. 

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on a structural increase in bills for Band E to H homes of between 7.5% and 22.5% on top of annual council-set rises.

Similar jumps were imposed in 2017, and the consultation was supposed to lead to a new round in 2024, but Mr Yousaf said he was open to bringing the rises in gradually. 

“I'd be open to any sensible suggestions such as phasing,” he said.

He also said he wanted the SNP, Labour, Tories, Greens and Liberal Democrats at Holyrood to come together for a summit on tackling climate change.

In his first keynote speech as First Minister, Mr Yousaf delayed or dropped plans on recycling, a fishing ban in 10% of Scottish seas, and a ban on alcohol advertising.

He announced a “reset” of the government’s relationship with business, which had withered under Nicola Sturgeon’s administration.

Ms Surgeon’s final months in Bute House also saw her hopes of Indyref2 without Westminster consent crushed by a unanimous ruling of the UK Supreme Court.

Her back-up plan to use an election as a ‘de facto referendum’ then collapsed as well.

Government insiders realise that, having ditched a series of policies in the first half of the parliament, the second half must be much more positive and produce results.

Tuesday's goal is a series of deliverable 'wins' for the SNP going into the general and Holyrood elections, with cabinet secretaries more clearly accountable for policies. 

There is expected to be a focus on anti-poverty measures and social protection, as well as a commitment to independence, although no new concrete plan to secure it.

Mr Yousaf told the Record: “What we'll see is a PfG that says tackling poverty and growing our economy go hand in hand. If you grow that economy, you increase the tax base, you increase the revenue that you can spend on anti-poverty measures.

“Childcare will be absolutely central to my plans in terms of tackling poverty. In fact, I would say childcare is the perfect example of an initiative that is both pro-growth and anti-poverty.”

He also hinted at pay rises for childcare and adult social care staff.

He said: “One of the biggest challenges we have in early learning centre provision is workforce. So you will hear… plans around how we will attempt to bolster the workforce.”

He added: “There's just no recovery of the health service without recovery of the social care sector. And the number one issue… amongst our adult social care providers is workforce.”