National Care Service (Scotland) Bill

– in the Scottish Parliament on 9th February 2023.

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Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

The First Minister has been sent a letter by the Scottish Trades Union Congress and Common Weal, setting out their serious concerns about the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill and asking for the bill to be paused. They are joined by GMB Scotland, Unison Scotland, Unite the union, the Scottish Pensioners Forum, Who Cares? Scotland, Parkinson’s UK, respected professor of public policy James Mitchell, the Scottish National Party Trade Union Group and more besides.

That follows significant criticism of the bill by no less than four committees of this Parliament, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, a host of care providers and those receiving care. There is nothing to prevent the SNP from delivering improvements to social care now, such as fair pay and ending non-residential care charges, but the sector is concerned that it is not listening to their concerns and is intent on bulldozing the bill through.

Will the First Minister pause the bill and take the time required to get it right?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

We will, of course, take the time required to get it right. There was, in the letter that Jackie Baillie referred to, a line that she did not read out, so I will. It states:

“We want to emphasise that we share the Scottish Government’s desire to create a National Care Service.”

Several committees of this Parliament are scrutinising the bill at stage 1. When we have all the reports and feedback, we will take time to consider all the issues that have been raised. At that stage, we will set out the timescale for the rest of the legislative process.

In the interim, we are taking steps to improve social care. Let us remember what a national care service is about. It is about ending the postcode lottery in care provision and better rewarding those who work in the sector. In the year ahead, we are taking action to boost social care workers’ pay and getting the initial organisational arrangements in place. We will continue to proceed in that responsible way and, as we do so, we will listen to the views of all the organisations that are signatories to the letter and, I am sure, many others besides.