WITH Holyrood now back from summer recess, the First Minister yesterday set out her plan for the year ahead.

This Programme for Government is an ambitious and radical vision for the Scotland we all seek – an inclusive, fair, prosperous, innovative country, ready and willing to embrace the future.

At the heart of our plan is a social package that aims to tackle poverty, inequality, and rough sleeping. Issues that all societies face, but that have become worse under a Tory government hellbent on austerity and welfare cuts that are hitting families and households hard.

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In 2017, that’s not acceptable. The SNP in government are making the eradication of rough sleeping a national priority and investing £50 million to support initiatives to bring about urgent change.

But poverty does not just exist at the extremes. It affects people in every community in the country and at different stages of life.

We know that being born into poverty can have a dramatic impact on a child’s life chances – impacting on their health, their education, their life expectancy and their future income.

That’s why we’re expanding free high-quality childcare and investing to drive up school standards.

And it’s why the Scottish Government’s Child Poverty Bill will set firm targets for improvement – backed up with a new £50m fund to invest in eradicating child poverty.

The Baby Box is a gift to new parents that helps with some of the financial pressures that come with a newborn. But, importantly, it’s also a signal that we expect every child to have an equal start in life.

With the limited welfare powers now devolved to Holyrood, we will create a social security system with dignity and respect at its heart.

The Scottish Government will increase Carer’s Allowance from next summer, backdating it to April 2018, and will introduce the Best Start Grant for low-income parents and help with the cost of funerals by summer 2019.

Often the impacts of poverty are unseen – such as women who are unable to afford sanitary products each month. The Scottish Government will fund a scheme to provide free sanitary products to students in schools, colleges and universities. And we’ll consider additional action to support those on low incomes but not in education, based on the findings of our current pilot in Aberdeen.

These are important steps using the powers we have – but with technology set to change the economy in ways we don’t yet understand, we must also ask more fundamental questions about the welfare state.

One radical idea, but one that is currently untested, is to introduce a citizen’s basic income that could help people in insecure work and remove fears that getting back into work could leave people worse off. We will establish a fund for those local authorities which want to run pilot schemes to test this initiative.

These are exactly the sort of bold and imaginative policies that Scotland needs – and which the SNP intend to deliver.