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by Jack Thomson
16 April 2021
Scottish Liberal Democrats promise education bounce back plan and mental health focus in manifesto

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats (Picture credit: Alamy)

Scottish Liberal Democrats promise education bounce back plan and mental health focus in manifesto

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have pledged an education bounce back plan and focus on mental health as they revealed their election manifesto. 

Willie Rennie launched his party's policy aims this morning with a message of 'put recovery first', reaffirming its stance against a second independence referendum. 

Among a series of proposals, the Lib-Dems have promised more counsellors, as well as a mental health first aider in every workplace, and an "urgent catch-up programme" for the NHS, increasing the number of diagnosis and treatment centres within health boards.

They have also committed to tackling the poverty-related attainment gap, proposing more in-class support for children who need it, alongside more teachers on permanent contracts.

The Lib-Dems want play-based education until the age of seven and every qualified teacher guaranteed a job in a bid to cut class sizes in Scotland.

They also have plans to extend free early learning and childcare to include two-year-olds. 

Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal-Democrats, said children should be allowed to learn through play in their early years. 

Explaining his party's support for play-based learning until the age of seven, he said: "So you get rid of all the P1 testing that the government's insistent on. They're still going to the physical school... We're proposing the type of education they get in the school environment should be more play-based, so they learn through play.

"That's what they do in the Nordic countries, where they start formal education later. They would never dream of testing at five years old. It creates quite a heavy burden on young people at that stage. They can learn an awful lot play-based."

Rennie's party wants to combine economic recovery with action on climate change, highlighting commitments to renewable energy and warm homes. It says it would convert one million homes to low cost, lower carbon heating in the next decade. 

They would look to offer a job guarantee for every 16 to 24-year-old so that they all have access to employment or training.

A creation of a new national programme for 2,000 paid graduate internships with small businesses has been suggested. The intention would be for this programme to run through enterprise agencies and university careers services. 

Announcing the manifesto, Rennie said his party "will put recovery first, not independence."

He continued: "That means an NHS recovery plan. It means a greater priority for mental health with extra counsellors, mental health first aiders and specialists for easy access near to you. 

"Bounce back support for pupils, employing more permanent teachers to cut class sizes, and extend free nursery education to all two-year olds. 

"Creating more jobs and taking action on the climate with one million low cost, low carbon homes, a young people’s job guarantee and £5,000 training grants. That’s what you get when you put recovery first. 

"After the year we have endured we must bring the country together to recover from this dreadful pandemic. 

"This is not the moment to go back to the divisions of the past with another independence referendum that will divide because the recovery will require the skills and talents of everyone. 

"Just imagine what we can do. This manifesto is packed with over fifty top line commitments. 

"To cut mental health waits. Faster treatment in the NHS. Giving pupils the education they deserve to achieve their best. Creating well paid jobs with a skilled workforce. Taking bold action to tackle climate change. 

"This is a liberal offer. At our heart we want every individual to achieve their potential. Liberal Democrats will put recovery first."

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