Clare’s Column in the Rutherglen Reformer

As the First Minister and the Scottish Government continue to deal with both the economic and constitutional impact of the EU Referendum result opposition parties, most of whom have no constructive solutions to offer, demand that the Scottish Government “get on with the day job!”

A cursory glance at the work the Government is actually “getting on with,” even whilst Parliament is in recess, shows these demands up for what they are:  lazy, unconstructive, carping from the side-lines.

In the past few weeks alone Government Ministers have announced a raft of initiatives that will improve existing services or shape the future of both existing and new services over the next decade.

A thousand new paramedics are to be trained to work in the ambulance service over the next five years. The first 200 paramedics, recruited from the ambulance technician workforce, will begin training this year, backed by Scottish government funding. 200 new technicians will be recruited to replace them.

Notwithstanding that there are more GPs per head of population in Scotland than in England, and that we also spend more on GP services per head of population than any other part of the UK, a recruitment drive has been launched to encourage more junior doctors to consider the opportunities that a career in general practice provides. The first 100 new GP training places were announced two weeks ago.

The Government has also launched a consultation on a new Child Poverty Bill. The Bill, which will be introduced next year and will form part of our overall approach to tackling poverty and inequality in Scotland.

The next steps will build on the range of work the Scottish Government already has underway to tackle poverty and inequality including: our commitment to promoting the Living Wage; free school meals; the expansion of funded early learning and childcare; the Scottish Attainment Challenge, which will provide £750 million over this parliamentary session and additional support to improve the educational outcomes for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

We have also launched an open Scottish Government consultation on mental health services which is seeking views on how mental health services can be improved over the next decade. This process will seek to encourage a national conversation including a focus on how prevention and early intervention services can be enhanced, giving organisations or individuals with an interest in mental health a direct opportunity to contribute to a long-term Mental Health strategy.

Looking ahead, the transfer of some Social Security powers to Scotland, (although only about 15% of reserved benefits,) gives us an opportunity to start shaping a new Scottish Social Security Service. Last week we launched a consultation which will give you the chance to shape a fair, efficient and effective system based on dignity and respect.

People often hear about government consultations, and think that they are for other people and not for them. That’s certainly not the case – and in areas as important as mental health and social security, the more we hear from people with direct experience of these services, the better we can shape the system. You can get involved in either consultation by visiting http://www.gov.scot.

In addition to all of this the Government has announced a package of measures to

stimulate Scotland’s economy following the result of the EU referendum. Action includes bringing forward £100 million government spending on infrastructure. We are also providing fresh support for business through the creation of a new Business Information Service which, unlike the UK Government, will provide post Brexit support and reassurance to Scottish businesses.

So, contrary to the blinkered sniping from detractors, “getting on with the day job” is a top priority for the SNP Government and will always have a high level of focus, whilst we also continue to ensure that Scotland’s wider interests are protected.

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