Last week the Scottish Government released its Programme for Government for 2018/19. As the newly appointed Minister for Mental Health, I am particularly delighted by the substantial additional investment in mental health services for children, adolescents and adults.
For example, £250m will be invested to reform the way we provide mental health services to children and adults – delivering 350 new secondary school counsellors and providing more than 80 additional counsellors for our colleges and universities over the next four years.
We will also recruit an additional 250 school nurses by 2022 who will help provide a response to mild and moderate emotional and mental health issues experienced by young people, as well as fast-track specialist treatment systems for those with serious mental illness.
This year’s Programme for Government will deliver ambitious actions in a wide range of areas, including health, social security, the environment and the economy, which will help improve the lives of communities in Rutherglen, Cambuslang and across Scotland.
In education, Head teachers will be given new powers to become key decision makers in their schools, with more power over their own budgets and, in partnership with local government, 750 new, extended or refurbished nurseries will be developed to deliver the Scottish Government’s commitment to double free childcare hours. There will be continued support for teacher recruitment, and an additional £33 million will be invested across Scotland, over three years, to help children in care with education.
The most ambitious infrastructure spending plans yet will see investment of £1.5 billion more for infrastructure each year by 2025-26, including improved transport and more low-carbon energy.
A new Scottish Social Security System, with dignity and respect at its heart, will deliver 11 benefits, including the first Best Start Grant payments for low income families with young children by Christmas this year, 6 months earlier than planned; a 13% increase in the Carers’ Allowance – an extra £442 per person this year – as well as funeral expense assistance.
There will be new legislation to introduce a Scottish National Investment Bank.
There will also be a major package of reforms in the justice system – with a new support system for victims, witnesses and families of those affected by crime, including a dedicated case worker for families of murder victims, improved information and support about prisoner release, as well as support for engagement between victims and offenders to help the victim and to prevent reoffending.
£1bn a year will be invested in improving our environment, including low carbon transport solutions, aimed at the phasing out of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032 – creating at least 20 electric towns across Scotland by 2025; adding 1500 new charge points in homes, businesses and in public spaces; investing £20 million to help people switch to electric vehicles; adding more than 1500 new ultra low emission vehicles to public sector fleets, and investing £1.7 million to add over 100 green buses.
The positive response our Programme for Government has received from civic Scotland, charities, the university sector, environmental groups, young people and business organisations – among many others – has been truly phenomenal, and demonstrates the confidence that they have in this Government to deliver for Scotland.
These are ambitious, but achievable proposals. It is now incumbent upon opposition parties at Holyrood to listen to these supportive voices and help us deliver on this Programme for Government over the coming year.
Date published: 7th September 2018