Finding out that mental health progress was worse than we thought – one of the reasons Scottish Liberal Democrats voted against the SNP’s budget

You English were so lucky to have Norman Lamb and before him Paul Burstow as Health Ministers with mental health in their portfolios. In Scotland, we haven’t made the progress you have – even though I know that yours is nowhere near enough. We don’t have the parity between physical and mental health that Norman Lamb and Nick Clegg drove through, even in principle.

During negotiations on this year’s Scottish Budget, Willie Rennie discovered that the mental health situation in Scotland was much worse than even he had thought. He told activists yesterday at the Kickstart training day in Perth:

Look at the terrible record of this SNP Government on mental health.

They let the share of the budget spent on mental health drop by their own admission for years.

The SNP let its mental health strategy lapse in 2015 with no replacement in place.

Young people still have to wait more than a year for treatment.

It became clear during our budget discussions with them that the SNP Government is much further behind on mental health even than we feared.

The SNP were simply unable to make the changes to their budget towards what we know is important for mental health. We wanted a doubling of services for young people, comprehensive support at GP surgeries and comprehensive cover.

We cannot let this drop. We cannot let the SNP and their neglect of mental health stand. They are letting people down.

I want our council candidates to take our mental health campaign into the council chambers of Scotland.

Liberal Democrat councillors will work in partnership with local health services for better support for people with mental health problems.

Councils can patch up the provision that is neglected by the SNP Government.

We can make sure local education services identify young people with mental health problems and help them get early support, and continue to help them as they transfer to adult services.

We will make sure each council is a mental health champion, promoting good health and helping people back into employment.

We can support voluntary groups that help people tackle loneliness and isolation.

And we can use the influence of councillors on the Integration Joint Boards to make mental health support quick, effective and locally available.

For a time it looked like there might have to be another Scottish election as the SNP didn’t look like they were going to get the agreement of any other party in the Parliament. The Tories and Labour wouldn’t talk to them at all, much to their discredit. Willie spent a substantial amount of time in pretty open and honest (on both sides) negotiations with Derek Mackay, the Finance Minister, but there was no prospect of an agreement in sight. The Greens decided that they wanted a 60% tax rate and they weren’t budging on that.

Until Patrick Harvie, their leader, capitulated live on telly on Wednesday afternoon, muttering about how it would be irresponsible not to let the budget go through. That’s the voice of strong opposition for you. Maybe he was more worried about an election potentially removing the pro-independence majority in the Parliament.

It might have been ok if Patrick hadn’t mucked it up so spectacularly before. In 2009 he voted against the Budget only to capitulate with nothing a few days later. You know what Lady Bracknell would say – once is unfortunate, twice is careless.

Anyway, as the Greens slunk off quietly, Willie talked about his reasons for voting against:

Today the SNP missed a huge opportunity to make Scotland a more liberal and economically strong country. It’s a missed opportunity to meet the challenges of Brexit, a sluggish economy and slipping educational performance. It’s a missed opportunity to see a transformational investment in education, a step change in mental health services and essential support for our police service.

Liberal Democrats held firm on our reasonable and principled positions.  Instead of delivering a bold and green country the Green Party have simply helped the SNP deliver a grey and timorous budget.

The SNP and Greens between them have delivered an austerity budget which is not what Scotland’s ailing economy needs right now.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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2 Comments

  • Latest opinion report from Scotland, Lib Dems at 4%, Conservative at 27%. Can it get any worse? Has it ever been so bad? Does the Scottish Party need to change tact and get a fresh sort of identity with the public?.

  • @ theakes. No to the third question. @ Caron. As someone who has had serious health issues on both sides of the Border – mental health apart – the NHS is far superior in Scotland.

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