In 2019-20, the Scottish Government will increase direct investment in mental health by £27 million, which will take overall funding for mental health to £1.1 billion. Mental health expenditure over the four years since 2016-17 will amount to £4 billion. As Mr Dornan is aware, mental health is a priority for this Government, as evidenced by the appointment of a specific Minister for Mental Health and significant investment in the Scottish Government’s mental health strategy. I updated Parliament last year on progress on the strategy and there is a commitment to do so annually.
Would the minister agree that the proposals in the draft budget to invest an additional £250 million over the next five years to improve mental health outcomes for children and young people are a step in the right direction? Would she also agree that it is deeply disappointing that the Liberal Democrats, who have championed mental health services over the past few years, will not support that important investment because of their constitutional obsession?
I agree with James Dornan. The £250 million investment will support the ambitions that were set out in the programme for government to build on the principles of early intervention and to radically change what we do to ensure that care and support are available as close as is possible to children, young people and their families. The “Better Mental Health in Scotland” delivery plan that was published in December 2018 includes a number of actions to reform children and young people’s mental health services. By April, health boards are expected to have in place improvement plans with clear milestones to be achieved over the next two years.
While the Liberal Democrats talk about the need to invest in and expand mental health services, it is worth remembering that last week they voted against a budget that will deliver significant investment in mental health care. It appears that the Liberal Democrats might talk the talk, but when they have the opportunity to support the Scottish Government in improving mental health services, they refuse to take it.