Scotland’s independent think tank
Scotland’s independent think tank

Priorities for Scotland’s Next First Minister


  • Think tank calls for urgent action on the economy, education, health and net zero
  • Reform Scotland also recommends four more long-term reforms

Reform Scotland has called for the incoming First Minister to prioritise four immediate issues upon assuming office on Tuesday.

In a new paper the think tank says that Scotland’s new leader should immediately:

  • Reset the relationship between the Scottish Government and the business community
  • Scrap the National Care Service and establish a new social insurance fund to pay for social care, including ‘hotel costs’
  • Begin meaningful reform of the nation’s education bodies
  • Provide a clear, detailed and realistic route map to Net Zero

The new briefing also calls for the following longer-term action:

  • Reform the NHS, the only non-negotiable starting point being that it remains free at the point of use 
  • Revitalise local democracy to empower councils and communities
  • Reform further and higher education to better meet the future skills market
  • Broaden the tax base to increase revenues

“A thriving business community is essential to Scotland’s welfare. It is where new jobs are created, where economic growth occurs, and where tax revenues are generated. And yet a continued complaint during Nicola Sturgeon’s tenure has been of a poor relationship with the sector. The next First Minister must urgently re-set this relationship. They need to listen to, and work with, the business community.

“The National Care Service should be scrapped and a new social insurance fund established to pay for social care, with the help of a 1p increase in income tax to start paying for it. There has not been adequate explanation about why simply removing local government from social care will lead to an improvement in delivery.

“There needs to be fundamental change in the culture of Scottish education and particularly in the way in which it is managed. In order to improve performance in Scotland’s schools the Scottish Government first needs to be honest and accept that standards have fallen relative to other countries and that there has been little progress made in closing the attainment gap. Reinstating Scotland’s participation in the TIMSS and PIRLS international studies, along with a replacement for the Scottish Study of Literacy and Numeracy, would help measure the work that needs to be done.

“The Scottish Government’s current energy strategy, particularly with regard to the demand side, reads more like a wish list than a detailed route map. Difficult policy decisions and vastly improved public engagement and education are required. Reducing demand will be not be easy and it will require changes to the way people heat their homes and go about their lives. Such changes will not always be popular, and it is therefore important that the urgency is clearly understood.”

Chris Deerin, Director, Reform Scotland

On proposals to create a Scottish Statistics Authority to help contribute towards long-term reform, Chris added:

“The Scottish Government has been too timid for too long when it comes to reform. We must have the courage to try different approaches, recognise that not every plan will work, that diversity of provision is to be encouraged, and learn from what we do. Data is king. A Scottish Statistics Authority can help ensure we have the data and analysis required to evaluate reform.”


Priorities for Scotland’s Next First Minister