ELECTION: LIBDEMS UPBRAID STURGEON FOR STICKING TO REFERENDUM PLANS DESPITE PANDEMIC

By Lucy Ashton

Despite her protestations and assurances during the Leaders’ Debate on TV this week, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is still hellbent on forcing the Scottish electorate into an Independence Referendum – even if the Covid pandemic is still happening at that time.

Nicola Sturgeon’s told BBC Scotland this morning that she wants to hold another referendum “in the recovery phase” of the pandemic.

LibDem campaign chair Alistair Carmichael MP said:  “Nicola Sturgeon has once again made it very clear that her only priority this election is another independence referendum. This is not what Scotland needs

“Scotland needs a needle-sharp focus on green and secure jobs, a plan to help education bounce back and supporting the NHS and mental health.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats want to put recovery first, we want to make sure Scotland can flourish again after the pandemic and that everyone will be able to thrive. This is what every government should do, put the well-being of the nation and citizens first, clearly Nicola Sturgeon does not think so.”

Meanwhile, responding to a letter to the First Minister from over 1,700 qualified Scottish teachers who are unable to secure permanent employment for the coming year, LibDem leader Willie Rennie said:  “When I raised this with the First Minister in parliament, I was told it was all fine. But this letter proves that the casualisation of the teaching workforce is a very real problem. 

“Teachers moved mountains during the pandemic. They worked through impossible circumstances, to give children and young people the best education they could. It’s a disgrace that thousands now can’t be guaranteed a job for them next year. 

“Just as we needed everyone available to boost our NHS last year, we need every teaching talent to support the education bounce back.  

“Scottish Liberal Democrats have a bounce back plan for education, and that starts with a teacher job guarantee for August. No teacher should be unemployed or feel underemployed.”

Willie Rennie today used an election campaign stop to announce a manifesto commitment to support the provision and training of mental health first aiders for every workplace, as he also revealed that training for both new mental health first aiders and instructors has been suspended for over a year.

The proposals are the first in a series of plans to boost mental health that the party will unveil over the coming week.

The training of mental health first aiders is undertaken by Public Health Scotland but was suspended when the pandemic struck, despite concerns that demand for support would soar. This contrasts with England where training never stopped and is instead being delivered as a virtual classroom course.

Under the party’s proposals, an independent specialist body like Mental Health First Aid England would take over the delivery of this scheme. It would ramp up training so that every workplace can benefit from a mental health first aider.

These proposals come weeks after the LibDems declared a mental health crisis, against the wishes of the Scottish Government. Recent Scottish Liberal Democrat research has also uncovered 700,000 working days lost to mental health between schools, the police and ambulance service alone.

Gartnavel Royal Hospital, where appointments are hard to come by.

Mr Rennie said: “Businesses and public sector employers lose hundreds of thousands of working days to mental ill health each year. Our research indicates that this could have worsened during the pandemic.

“Adults regularly wait up to two years for mental health treatment. That comes at huge personal cost to their health but employers also miss out on their talents. 

“Scottish Liberal Democrats want to give every workplace the protection of a trained mental health first aider.

“Early intervention can avoid a problem that starts small becoming a crisis. I want someone in every workplace to be able to recognise the signs of mental ill health among colleagues and know what to do.

“It was wrong to suspend the training programme at the very moment it should have been ramped up.

“For a decade I have been a passionate champion of Scotland’s mental health. In the past month Scottish Liberal Democrats have led the Parliament in declaring a mental health crisis, against the wishes of the government, and secured £120 million more for mental health in the course of our budget negotiations with ministers.

“This should be the platform for a new government that puts recovery first and transforms mental health services.”

Top picture: Scottish LibDem Leader Willie Rennie on the campaign train in his constituency.

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