Not proven verdict and mental health among party pledges

Monday saw party leaders announce a raft of new policies as campaigning continues ahead of May's election.

Not proven verdict and mental health among party pledges Getty Images

The SNP have pledged to launch a consultation into the use of the controversial not proven verdict in Scotland, as parties continue to campaign ahead of May’s Holyrood election. 

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said his party “is on your side and on the side of our communities” when it comes to criminal justice.

“In recognition of the strong case that has been made for its abolition, we will consult on the removal of the not proven verdict,” Yousaf said in a speech.

“We will work with all parties and with relevant stakeholders to take forward reform of Scotland’s justice system.

“The SNP Government is on your side and on the side of our communities.

“We will use all of our experience to do whatever we can to keep Scotland safe and continue to cut crime and help victims.”

Meanwhile Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar announced plans to boost apprenticeships to ensure Covid-19 does not leave a “lost generation” of young people.

He said the party will place new work opportunities for young Scots at the heart of its jobs recovery plan.

Sarwar said Labour plans to regrow the economy include 5000 apprenticeship places and a sharing scheme so that businesses in key sectors like construction or agriculture take on an apprentice together.

The proposals would involve more than doubling the hourly rate for a 23-year-old apprentice.

Sarwar said: “The most important part of our national recovery is making sure we have a jobs recovery and part of that is making sure we don’t have a lost generation amongst our young people and that’s why we want to create 5000 additional apprenticeships for young people across the country at a higher rate of pay as well, so doubling what the apprentices currently get paid across the country so we can boost the economy, create jobs and make sure we don’t have a lost generation coming through Covid.”

The Scottish Conservatives announced plans for a Nature Bill aimed at reducing the threat of species extinction, expanding green spaces in towns and cities, and protecting marine life.

The bill would also tackle invasive non-native species, increase tree planting, end peat extraction for use in compost, create a third national park and review Marine Protected Areas with a view to expansion.

Party leader Douglas Ross said: “Scotland’s natural environment is beautiful, diverse and precious yet it has suffered from 14 years of SNP neglect.

“The SNP’s own biodiversity indicators reveal a track record of missed emission targets and ‘substantially lacking’ climate change plans. It is tragic that one in nine species in Scotland are at risk.

“Our ambitious and detailed Nature Bill would turn derelict urban sites green for community benefit and in Galloway we would create Scotland’s third national park.

“The climate emergency demands our urgent attention — we cannot afford to waste another five years with a Parliament consumed by the SNP’s separation obsession.”

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have pledged to “refresh Scotland’s mental health strategy” on day one after the election.

The pledge comes as the Scottish Parliament officially recognised there was a mental health crisis in a Holyrood debate brought by the Lib Dems earlier this year.

“For too long, vulnerable people have been subjected to harrowing long waits for mental health treatment. It is impossible to imagine just how hard it must be. Despite the warnings, the pandemic has left a mountain of delays,” said leader Willie Rennie.

“As Scotland begins to reopen, we desperately need to put the recovery first and invest in mental health services. Our NHS staff do an incredible job. People deserve a government that gets behind them and puts mental health at the top of the agenda.

“There is no issue as important to Liberal Democrats as this. On day one after the election, we will refresh the mental health strategy in line with our mental health recovery plan and the £120m we have already secured.

“For people in need or for families in the depth of worry about a loved one, mental health must be taken as seriously as physical health in the next parliament.”

Meanwhile the Alba Party said it will set out its “route to independence” on Tuesday.

In an address scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, leader Alex Salmond will make what he called the “declaration for Scotland”, on the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath.

Salmond said: “Tomorrow, on the anniversary of the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath I will set out Alba’s Declaration for Scotland and the clear route to independence – a strategy for immediate action by the Scots Parliament following the achievement of an independence supermajority.

“The momentum in this election is with Alba as people warm to our message that only a list vote for Alba can deliver the independence supermajority that will deliver independence for Scotland.”

Finally the Scottish Greens are calling for fox hunting loopholes to be closed in a bid to put an end to all hunting with dogs “for good”.

Although fox hunting with dogs was banned in Scotland in 2002, an unlimited number of dogs are still allowed to chase foxes from cover so they can be shot.

Candidate Alison Johnstone said: “Most people think fox hunting is already banned in Scotland, but loopholes in the law mean that hunting continues much as it did.

“It is my intention to close these loopholes and end all hunting with dogs for good.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code