By Harry Bell
At the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference today, party leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP challenged the next First Minister to appoint a dedicated mental health minister, following his own party’s appointment of Cllr Sally Pattle as mental health spokesperson.
It comes as the party’s new blueprint to transform mental health services across Scotland was approved by conference. Those plans include:
- Increasing the number of training places for psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, and boosting the number of mental health professionals working alongside GPs, the police and A&E departments
- Ramping up training so that every workplace can benefit from a mental health first aider
- Establishing a single point of contact for those on waiting lists
- Creating new dedicated specialist mental health beds for children and young people north of Dundee, and beds for new mothers north of Livingston to end long journeys for specialist care
- A new ambition to cut routine mental health waiting times in half, to be triggered once current targets are met.
In 2016, Scottish Liberal Democrats persuaded the Scottish Government to appoint a dedicated mental health minister, but that was reversed by Nicola Sturgeon in 2021.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, pictured left, said: “Mental health services were swamped before the pandemic. On top of that have been added the long shadow of lockdown, the pressures of the cost of living crisis and spiralling waiting lists. But the SNP have just met that reality by cutting £50m from the mental health budget.
“Mental health desperately needs a champion at the very top of government. That’s why I’m delighted to announce Cllr Sally Pattle as our party’s new mental health spokesperson. And it’s why the Scottish Government needs to follow our lead and re-establish a dedicated Mental Health Minister who can cut waiting times and ensure comprehensive access to treatment across the country.
“Liberal Democrats would create a properly funded, world-beating system to tackle Scotland’s mental health crisis.”
Top picture: Gartnavel Hospital serves West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute.