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Programme for Government lacks 'real radical vision'

Opposition leaders have reacted to the First Minister's announcement of coming legislation.

Richard Leonard: Labour leader welcomed mental health commitments (file pic).
Richard Leonard: Labour leader welcomed mental health commitments (file pic). PA

Opposition politicians have reacted to Nicola Sturgeon's plans for the coming parliamentary session.

The First Minister announced 12 new pieces of legislation included investment in infrastructure, support for exporters and a continuation of Scotland's move towards a climate-neutral economy.

A new package of mental health reform was also announced as part of the Scottish Governments wider programme of work "to tackle the major social and economic challenges of the day".

Ms Sturgeon promised ambitious plans to increase spending on infrastructure in Scotland, with a promise to invest an additional £7bn on schools, hospitals, transport, digital connectivity and clean energy by 2026.

With Brexit looming, she also announced £20m will be invested to support businesses looking to sell their products outside of the UK.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard welcomed the commitments on mental health but argued that Ms Sturgeon's plan lacked "real radical vision".

He said: "This year alone over two and a half thousand young people have waited more than 18 weeks for treatment.

"The review of CAMHS, published in June after years of pressure from Labour, exposed a system not fit for purpose, with young people being rejected from treatment because they weren't deemed suicidal.

"The system needs to change and I hope that today is the first step towards doing that."

However, he said that while the First Minister and the Scottish Government "choose a vocabulary of radicalism and ambition, in reality they have emptied both of their real meaning".

"Where is the real radical vision in this Programme for Government?" he said.

https://stv.tv/news/politics/1430026-nicola-sturgeon-sets-out-government-s-plans-for-next-year/ | default

The Scottish Greens also decried the programme as "a missed opportunity".

Co-convener Patrick Harvie MSP said:"It's welcome to see action such as the Young Carer's Grant, and electoral reform, and we'll seek a continued commitment that the principle will be residence, and non-EU citizens and asylum seekers will also be able to vote.

"On a new public rail operator we need a stronger commitment on timing, and there's still no acknowledgement from Government that in our education system it is resources, not structural reforms, that should be the priority."

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson claimed the government had "promised but not delivered" on much of last year's programme for government.

"Forgive us for treating this year's programme for government with a gritter load of salt, because this government has shown that they are very, very good on promises and consultations but a little less energetic when it comes to delivery and action," she said.

She said the Tories welcomed some of the plans outlined by the First Minister, including mental health funding, the focus on increasing exports and cash for electric vehicles.

But she claimed what's striking about this overall package is that the SNP legislation seems to be finely tuned in terms of headlines but less honed when it comes to substance.

"A textbook example of knee-jerk, backside covering just in time-ism," added Ms Davidson.

'The £1.5bn a year increase in infrastructure spending, a portion of which is to be invested in low-carbon energy, is to be welcomed, as is the commitment to help innovative companies move into export markets - a sector where our industry has a significant contribution to make.'
Scottish Renewables chief executive Claire Mack

Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, welcomed the extra investment in green energy.

She said: "Renewable energy can fulfil every part of the Scottish Government's Programme for Government - our industry can be the key to creating a healthier, wealthier and greener economy.

"The £1.5bn a year increase in infrastructure spending, a portion of which is to be invested in low-carbon energy, is to be welcomed, as is the commitment to help innovative companies move into export markets - a sector where our industry has a significant contribution to make."

Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said: "Investment in electric vehicles and active travel is encouraging, but this was a missed opportunity to enable local authorities to run their own bus services in the interests of local people. 

 "Councils should also be given powers to implement Workplace Parking Levies to help cut the the toxic air pollution and congestion in our cities."

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said he would have liked to see more done to "encourage consumer spending".

He said: "There is much in this that the retail industry can support, especially on transport, infrastructure, broadband and skills.

"We would however have liked to have seen a stronger emphasis on policies which encourage consumer spending, keep down the cost of doing business and encourage retail investment.

"We will be looking to the upcoming Scottish Budget for measures to improve competitiveness and keep down business taxes."

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