NICOLA Sturgeon is being urged to introduce legislation to allow tougher sentences for crimes against older people as she prepares to present her programme for government to Holyrood tomorrow.

Action on Elder Abuse Scotland wants the abuse of vulnerable people to be made a statutory aggravating offence in law, estimating that about 100,000 pensioners north of the border suffer some form of abuse each year.

The charity said a recent review of hate crime laws in Scotland, carried out by Lord Bracadale, had paved the way for the change. The review’s recommendations called on ministers to consider a general aggravation covering exploitation and vulnerability.

Lord Bracadale also concluded there should be a new statutory aggravation based on “age hostility”.

The charity, which holds its annual conference in Glasgow today, said Scotland had the opportunity to lead the UK on the issue, and urged the Scottish Government to act.

The First Minister will bring forward 12 bills to the Scottish Parliament in the next 12 months, with details of them to be revealed when Holyrood returns tomorrow.

In a statement over the weekend, she said her programme would “build on the ambitious policies unveiled last year” and unveil a raft of new announcements.

But she warned: “Brexit heightens the importance of everything else we are doing as a Government. The people of Scotland did not vote to leave the European Union, but in this parliamentary year we are set to be taken out of the EU against our will – with continuing uncertainty around our future relationship with the world’s largest trading block, which is around eight-times larger than the UK market alone.

“In the face of this uncertainty, we have to intensify our focus on improving the wealth and the wellbeing of communities across Scotland while continuing to argue the case for a common sense approach to Brexit – for continued membership of the single market and customs union.”

Last year the Scottish Government introduced a 50p per unit minimum price for alcohol – a policy which was initially approved back in 2012 but then saw its implementation delayed by a legal challenge.

It also introduced a new income tax policy and announced plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2032.

As a minority government it managed to pass its budget with the support of the Scottish Greens six MSPs who have said they will not back the Scottish Government’s financial plans this year unless it signals a reform to local taxation.

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A poll commissioned by the Greens and published yesterday found almost two-thirds support local authorities being given more powers to raise their own cash.

Green co-convener Patrick Harvie (pictured) said: “Green MSPs have warned that after two years of reversing proposed cuts to local councils we cannot enter talks about the next budget unless there is movement on local tax. The public are with us on this. The ball is in the Scottish Government’s court.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said it continued to treat local government very fairly and had no plans to introduce visitor levy for the tourism sector.