First Minister confirms pay increase for childcare workers in his first Programme for Government
Childcare workers will be paid a minimum of £12 per hour from April next in a bid to increase capacity in the system, Humza Yousaf has announced.
Delivering his first Programme for Government as first minister, Yousaf said his government would seek to improve recruitment and retention rates in the sector, with an aim of employing 1,000 more childminders.
He also announced extra funding for six councils to pilot access to childcare from nine months to the end of primary school, and pledged to “accelerate” the expansion of childcare for families with two-year-olds.
Currently parents of three- and four-year-olds and some two-year-olds are entitled to 1,140 hours of free early learning and childcare.
But Audit Scotland warned in a report published in June that the sector “remains fragile” due to budget pressures, recruitment challenges and problems facing private nurseries and childminders.
The First Minister said his government would seek to increase flexibility in the system to allow parents to tailor their childcare to their needs.
He also confirmed plans to roll out free school meals to some children in P6 and P7, while his government will also remove the income threshold for accessing Best Start grants to help young families.
Other commitments include plans to increase care workers’ pay to £12 an hour, a new Housing Bill to bring in protections for renters, a cladding remediation bill and legislation to increase transparency around land ownership.
In justice, the First Minister pledged to tackle summary court backlogs by 2024, introduce body-worn cameras for police officers and introduce a misogyny bill.
He also reiterated his government's support for dualling the A9 – a contentious issue in recent months following concern than plan would be ditched.
Yousaf said his Programme for Government was “unashamedly anti-poverty and pro-growth”.
But he added: “The unfortunate reality is that the Scottish Government is currently operating with one hand tied behind our back. In the last five years we have spent more than £700m in countering the impact of UK Government welfare cuts alone.
“That’s why this government will never stop believing that decisions about Scotland should not be made by a government based in Westminster, but by the people of Scotland. In proposing the case for independence we will set out a positive vision for Scotland’s future.”
A total of 14 bills are included in the legislative programme for the next year, though three of these are left over from last year.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross accused the First Minister of putting his “political obsession” with independence ahead of the “big challenges” than needed to be tackled.
He said: “In this statement we’ve just heard from the First Minister, independence got a mention before education, before the NHS, before the economy.”
He also accused the Scottish Government of “tinkering around the edges” and pursuing “extreme Green policies”.
Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar said the Scottish Government had “lost its way, has no clear direction, no sense of purpose and no central mission”.
He added: “Scotland needed a programme for government to match the scale of the twin crises hitting Scots: a cost-of-living crisis and an NHS crisis. It took the first minister 22 minutes to even mention our National Health Service, because this package today isn’t good enough, it isn’t bold enough and it won’t do enough to confront these challenges.”