Review of adult social care and proposals for indyref2 feature in programme for government
Nicola Sturgeon has announced a review of the adult social care sector as part of this year’s programme for government.
The independent review, which will report initially in January, will include options for the creation of a national care service in Scotland.
The First Minister also announced that the Scottish Government would publish a draft bill setting out the proposed terms and timing of an independence referendum and the question to be used.
The programme for government sets out the Scottish Government’s plans for the parliamentary year, which will run until March, when the Holyrood election campaign begins.
Tackling climate change was high on the agenda in the government’s commitments for the year ahead.
A total of £1.6m will go to low-carbon initiatives, including a £100m green jobs fund, £60m for industrial decarbonisation and £500m over five years for active travel.
A Grangemouth future industry board will be set up to make plans for transition in that area.
Digital also featured prominently among the Scottish Government’s plans for the year.
The First Minister announced the government would implement the recommendations of the recent Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review in full.
She also announced the Connecting Scotland scheme would be expanded to provide 50,000 people who would be digitally excluded with a digital device, data and support.
Within healthcare, a new proximity tracing app, Protect Scotland, to help with coronavirus contact tracing will be launched later this month, while the video appointment system Near Me would become the default for patient consultations.
Measures to help support individuals and businesses through coronavirus and support economic recovery included a £25m transition training fund to support up to 10,000 people most at risk of redundancy through COVID-19 and a £10m hardship loan fund for people struggling to pay rent due to coronavirus.
A ‘Scottish youth guarantee’ will ensure that all young people aged 16-24 will be offered either work, education or training, while an inward investment plan is intended to create 100,000 high-value jobs over the next decade and boost GDP.
Other key commitments included the incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law and the setting up of an independent expert group on raising awareness of Scotland’s history of colonialism and slavery.
The First Minister said: “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a profound impact on our health and wellbeing, on business and the economy – indeed, on our whole way of life. That is true here in Scotland, and across the globe.
“Today’s programme is clear that suppressing COVID is our most immediate priority - and it will remain so for some time.
“However, it also makes clear that we will not simply hunker down and wait for the storm to pass.
“This programme for government sets out plans for a stronger, more resilient and sustainable economy – with a laser focus on creating new, good, green jobs.
“It guarantees opportunities for young people – and refuses to accept that their generation will carry the economic scars of COVID into adulthood.
“It sets out plans to strengthen and reform our public services, including our NHS. And it takes the first step on the road to a national care service.
“It promotes equality and wellbeing, with decisive action to combat child poverty. At its heart is the new, game-changing Scottish Child Payment.
“We must treat the COVID-19 challenge not as a brake on our ambitions but as an accelerant – helping us shape a stronger, greener, fairer future.”
But the Scottish Conservatives said that plans for a referendum bill showed that Nicola Sturgeon “doesn’t get it”.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “This was the moment where the First Minister could have put selfish, narrow interests to one side and united the country.
“Instead, we’re told the solution is another referendum bill, only this time in the middle of a pandemic.
“The First Minister just doesn’t get it. She needs to leave the Holyrood bubble and get back into the real world, where people are fearful of losing their jobs.
“The fundamental difference between our outlook is this: I know Scotland can succeed today; the First Minister thinks we can’t until the SNP get their way with separation.
“Civil servants that could be drawing up an education bill will instead be drawing up a referendum bill.
“Scotland’s future is being wasted on the divisions of the past.”
Labour welcomed the announcement of a review of the adult social care but called for the “profit motive” to be removed from care.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “Over the past six months, no part of our society has been more tragically hit by COVID-19 than our care homes.
“Today’s announcement of a review is a welcome signal of intent. But time is running out.
“Will the First Minister take the opportunity today to confirm not only that she intends to create a national care service, but that she will act immediately to level up the terms and conditions of the workforce, and that, as with our National Health Service, the profit motive will be removed from the care of our oldest and most vulnerable citizens?
“Because we cannot simply be content to go back to how things were in the care sector.”
And the Scottish Greens called for the Scottish Government to have a greater sense of urgency in tackling climate change.
Scottish Greens parliamentary co-leader Alison Johnstone said: “Work to build a fairer and greener Scotland is welcome, but the work to do that must begin now, especially considering the urgency of the climate emergency.
“If a green jobs fund is to have an impact, it must urgently benefit those communities that are most in need of a just transition.
“For example, Scottish Greens have worked closely with the communities around the Mossmorran gas plant and the Hunterston nuclear plant, campaigning for a sustainable future for those communities. They need this support as soon as possible.
“We have questions about whether increased support for oil and gas will come with conditions to reduce extraction too.
“The Scottish Greens have also been calling for more support for tenants. While I welcome the announcement of a tenants’ hardship fund, £10 million in loans is inadequate when half of all tenants have lost income during this crisis and are struggling.
“If Scotland is to be a fairer, greener more progressive country, the government needs to go further and faster on tackling the climate emergency and our housing crisis.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrats called for more to be done for young people's mental health and said the First Minister had got her priorities wrong.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “This government has never had a problem putting together a long to do list, but it’s the ‘got done’ list that’s the problem. It’s always much shorter.
“I have appealed to the First Minister three years in a row to improve mental health services for Scotland’s young people, but the wait times were worse than ever even before COVID hit and there is no new plan to tackle it.
“Scotland’s young people deserve better than that. Likewise, the childcare target has been delayed leaving parents without affordable options.
“There is no realistic chance of a sustainable economic recovery without strong mental health and childcare services.
“Lives and livelihoods across Scotland are still under threat but the First Minister is committing government time to new independence initiatives. These priorities are wrong.”