“Equality, Opportunity, Community” – Humza Yousaf’s focus as first minister is somewhat clear through the title of his first Programme for Government, but it falls short of making fundamental changes for the most vulnerable across Scotland today.

In addressing Holyrood on his government’s plans, the first minister referred to his faith as a driving motivator for why he seeks social justice in Scotland:

Growing up in the Islamic faith, I was taught that one of the core beliefs of that faith is that you are not a true Muslim if you have a full stomach while your neighbour goes to bed hungry.”

It was a powerful reflection and encouraging to hear as another person of faith. As evangelical Christians striving to reflect Jesus in all that we do, this also naturally leads to seeking justice for the most vulnerable in our society in the totality of loving our neighbour” – those who should be of the most important focus in the Scottish Government’s plans. 


The timeless words of Micah the prophet calling out the leaders of God’s people for their abdication of responsibilities for the most vulnerable continue to provoke us to action today: 

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8NIV)

This is a huge part of how we reflect God’s unconditional love towards us – giving ourselves up for one another and doing justice, humbly recognising our limitations and cultivating communities of opportunity. God’s word radically changes our perspective. 

Within the advocacy team at the Evangelical Alliance we recently published Reimagine, our good news vision for Northern Ireland. This exemplifies the way in which we engage with policymaking – supporting transformative outcomes for the most vulnerable in our society, and to be an advocate for our membership where there is a better and more holistic path that ministers can take. 

A significant part of the Programme for Government was outlining the agenda for economic growth for the purpose of tackling poverty. A recent poll by the Fraser of Allander Institute found that only 9% of Scottish businesses thought that the Scottish Government understands the business environment, so clearly there is much work to do. 

We know there is much Scottish Government can learn from and do more to support small and medium size businesses and social enterprises across Scotland who operate out of principles informed by their faith amongst many others. We’d encourage those who do to use our Connect resource as a helpful guide to engaging with your MSPs and government ministers. 

The following are some reflections on a few of the commitments made in the Programme for Government for 2023 – 24


The focus on tackling poverty is of course right but it needs to be laser-focused. The continued roll-out of the Scottish Child Payment, extended childcare provision and increasing the minimum pay for social care workers to £12 an hour are all very welcome – but as the Poverty Alliance have said, the Scottish Government needs to go much further and faster, amidst the cost of living crisis. So many faith-based organisations and church communities are quietly supporting substantial numbers of people who are at their time of most need, all across Scotland. 

Drug and alcohol addiction recovery 

It’s clear that the status quo with drug and alcohol policy can’t continue with the number of deaths still so high. The proposals put forward by the Scottish Government about safe drug consumption rooms and decriminalisation will require a lot of hard policy thinking to get them right, especially in the context of some powers being reserved to Westminster. We’re looking forward to engaging with our member organisations and leaders who work in the area of addiction recovery and those with lived experience to get their thoughts on the proposals. We also very much welcome consulting on banning single-use vapes – doing this is essential for children’s health and for the environment with how widespread they are in schools and across our towns and cities. 

Ending conversion practices 

Consulting on proposals to end conversion practices will be essential to getting any legislation in this area right for everyone in Scotland. We previously gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament on this issue and at Westminster, and our concerns haven’t changed. We look forward to engaging with the consultation and will be encouraging our membership to do so too. 

Net Zero

We welcome and look forward to engaging on a number of policy areas related to Scotland’s ambitions towards becoming net zero. We recently submitted a response to the consultation on the Circular Economy Bill (which includes measures on single-use products, household recycling and the disposal of unsold goods from shops) and welcome the trialing of an end to peak-time fares on ScotRail to encourage rail travel. We’re also looking forward to exploring what scope there may be in how churches can be supported in adapting to net zero through the Heat in Buildings Bill. 

Commercial sexual exploitation of women and girls 

There was however one glaring omission from the Programme for Government. Despite the Scottish Government’s policy position that prostitution is a form of violence against women, there continues to be no proposals for legislation that reflects this. We’d encourage you to listen to SNP MSP Ruth Maguire’s powerful contribution on this point during a debate on the Programme for Government here (at 1 hour 23 minutes into the recording). We would urge the Scottish Government to reflect on her contribution and take action – our joint campaign on this issue last year showed that Scotland’s Christian community is seeking change too. 

Over the coming parliamentary year we are looking forward to representing our membership once again at the Scottish Parliament and to the Scottish Government. If you’d like to find out more about our work or support with engaging with MSPs and ministers, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at scotland@​eauk.​org.