Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th March 2020.

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The First Minister:

I will take those issues in turn. Richard Leonard referred to a letter that I received from the GMB. I can confirm that it did indeed write to me about council cleaning services. Again, I point to the increased resources for local government in the budget that I hope Parliament will pass this afternoon. We have provided advice on cleaning educational settings through the Covid-19 guidance that has been produced by Health Protection Scotland. That remains extremely important. We will of course include COSLA in our on-going resilience planning to make sure that it is engaged with the actions that we take.

The laundry programme board has sought to develop a new action plan to ensure that its services are safe and sustainable. No proposals relating to that have come to ministers to consider. We have been waiting for NHS chief executives to review the business case. Of course, the final decision will be taken by the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport. I think that she has already said—if not, I will say it—that the current and emerging situation with coronavirus will very much be a factor in deciding the best way forward. The Scottish Government will not approve any plans that we think will in any way put at risk the steps that we have to take to deal with the situation.

I have made points about the budget that we will pass for the next financial year but, on the question of resources, when that draft budget was put together, we did not have all the information about coronavirus that we have now. It is almost inescapably the case that we will be required to provide additional resources to health and social care and perhaps to other parts of our public services and indeed businesses and individuals who are dealing with this challenge. Clearly, the Scottish Government budget is fully committed and we will require to have discussions with the UK Government ahead of, and no doubt after, the UK budget next week to make sure that those decisions are taken in an appropriate way. As with all aspects of the situation, we will keep Parliament duly updated.