Humza Yousaf's programme for government: Plan to pilot four-day week could be what's needed

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
First Minister’s programme for government needs bold, forward-looking plans to improve people's lives

Politics is getting back into gear this week as politicians return to Westminster and Holyrood after the summer recess.

Humza Yousaf's programme for government, setting out his plans for the next session, will give him a chance to present his priorities as First Minister. And the setting of the date for the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election fires the official starting gun for a contest that will be a critical test for both the SNP and Labour ahead of the general election expected next year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Appearing at the Fringe last month, Mr Yousaf joked about how his previous attempts to get his policy plans into the headlines had been frustrated by dramatic developments in the long-running police investigation into SNP finances – the arrest and questioning of the party’s former chief executive Peter Murrell came just days after Mr Yousaf was elected, and former treasurer Colin Beattie’s arrest and questioning coincided with a keynote statement to parliament by Mr Yousaf on his priorities for government.

First Minister Humza Yousaf will set out his policies in the programme for government.  Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.First Minister Humza Yousaf will set out his policies in the programme for government.  Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.
First Minister Humza Yousaf will set out his policies in the programme for government. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.

Mr Murrell and Mr Beattie were both released without charge and the police investigation continues to drag on, so it’s not impossible that Mr Yousaf’s hopes of prominent coverage for his programme for government will also be frustrated. And more broadly, he faces an uphill struggle, in any case, to focus public attention on what the Scottish Government is trying to do rather than what might or might not have been going on in the SNP.

Although he was the “continuity” candidate in the SNP contest to succeed Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Yousaf has already distanced himself significantly from some of his predecessor’s policies, effectively ditching the bottle and can deposit return scheme, as well as the highly protected marine areas and plans for new restrictions on alcohol advertising. Now he needs to spell out distinctive positive policies – things he will do, rather than things he won’t.

He has said the programme for government will be focused on measures that grow the economy, tackle poverty and deliver high quality public services. One specific policy reported to be among the new measures is a one-year pilot in parts of the public sector of a four-day week – something which it is said, if successful, could be rolled out more widely in the public sector, including local councils, with a hope that the private sector would take it up too.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The idea of a four-day week was ridiculed by the Tories when Labour under Jeremy Corbyn included it in the party’s manifesto for the 2019 UK general election. But employers have been trying it and found out it works. Last year, a six-month pilot involving 61 companies with 2,900 employees resulted in 56 firms saying they would continue with it. Staff said they felt less stressed, anxious, fatigued and sleepless, while company revenues were broadly the same or higher.

A four-day week may not be an obvious priority when people are worried about the cost-of-living crisis, NHS waiting times and the safety of school buildings. But government is not only about dealing with the immediate issues which do, of course, have to be addressed, but also about setting out bold, forward-looking plans which can improve people’s lives for the future. A four-day week might just be something that fits that bill.