Nicola Sturgeon’s Programme for Government makes pledges on mental health and the environment
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced 12 new bills as part of her plans for the coming parliamentary year.
Pledges in the SNP’s programme for government – the Scottish Parliament’s version of the Queen’s speech – include counsellors in every school, more investment in electric vehicles and more support for victims of crime.
Sturgeon announced more funds to help people switch to electric vehicles and £15m for 1,500 new charge points after Transport Scotland revealed car use has increased to its highest level.
She also promised to provide dedicated mental health counsellors in schools, extra training for teachers, and an additional 250 school nurses comes, as new figures revealed waiting times for child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are longer than ever.
Official figures showed only 67.8 per cent of children and young people receiving CAMHS treatment got it within the government’s 18-week target.
Plans to fast track young people with the most serious mental illness to specialist services were also announced by Sturgeon.
The principles of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child will be enshrined into Scots law, she said.
There were also measures to mitigate the impacts of Brexit in Sturgeon’s speech, including a pledge that the Scottish Government will pay “settled status” fees for EU citizens living in Scotland if needed, and legislation to give them the vote in Scottish elections.
"This Programme for Government will be impacted by Brexit, but it is not defined by it - instead it sets out how we intend to deliver on our vision of a healthier, wealthier and fairer Scotland," she said.
The new Scottish National Investment Bank to provide sustainable investment will be underpinned with legislation as part of an £7bn increase in infrastructure investment.
A new non-domestic rates bill will reform rate reliefs for businesses.
Five bills were announced in justice, including more protections for the victims of domestic abuse and their children, and legislation to tighten disclosure laws, protect confidential data and tackle female genital mutilation.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said her party would back the increased funding for mental health services and electric vehicles, but accused the overall package of measures as "knee-jerk, backside-covering just-in-time-ism”.
She challenged other opposition parties to apply pressure of the government.
"It is up to us to increase the pace,” she said.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the SNP lacked “real radical ambition” since the Scottish parliament has got more powers.
And Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie said it was clear his party would have to “step up the pressure” on government to leave its “comfort zone”.
The bills announced by Sturgeon today include: Biometric Data Bill, Budget Bill, Census (Amendment) Bill, Consumer Protection Bill, Disclosure Bill, Electoral Franchise Bill, Electoral Reform Bill, Family Law Bill, Female Genital Mutilation Bill, Non-Domestic Rates Bill, Scottish National Investment Bank Bill, South of Scotland Enterprise Agency Bill.
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