National Care Service law delayed until after SNP leadership race

All three SNP leadership candidates have said they would revisit plans for a National Care Service.

Scottish National Care Service law to be delayed until after SNP leadership contest iStock

The law to lay the groundwork for a Scottish National Care Service is to be delayed until after the SNP leadership contest.

The legislation was due to be debated and voted on at the Scottish Parliament this month but has been pushed back until a new SNP leader is selected.

The Scottish Government will now wait until June to put the law to MSPs.

All three SNP leadership candidates have said they would revisit the plans if they become first minister.

Former community minister Ash Regan said if she won the race she would “immediately pause” the rollout of the service.

She said: “I am 100% committed to this ground-breaking policy but it must create a care service worthy of the name. That means it must be led by care experts, respect local government be delivered locally and provide a universal service for all Scots who need it.

“As first minister I want to be known for listening, and anyone who is listening knows that these proposals as they stand do not have the support of the frontline staff who have to deliver.”

Finance secretary Kate Forbes, who is also in the race, said that while she is “hugely supportive” of her party’s plans for a National Care Service, she would decentralise the approach to local services.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf, who introduced the legislation, also said he would be open to overhauling the plans.

The delayed introduction of the bill means whoever wins the leadership race, to be announced on March 27, would be able to decide whether to continue with the current plans.

If passed, the National Care Service would mean councils would no longer run social care services, making ministers accountable for adult social care in Scotland.

The proposals are designed to end the postcode lottery around care access and would see one large public body divided into smaller regional boards, similar to the NHS.

But the plans have been criticised by trade unions, council leaders and opposition parties.

Concerns have also been raised around the price of the policy, with Scottish Parliament researchers estimating it could cost between £664m and £1,261bn over five years.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We’re grateful to all seven Committees who have taken evidence on the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill.

“It would be inappropriate for us to proceed with the stage one debate before being able to fully consider the recommendations of all of the committees who have taken evidence the Bill.

“We do not yet have reports and recommendations from all of the committees as they are, appropriately, taking the necessary time to properly reflect on this complex matter.

“An extension to the stage one deadline will allow both the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government the necessary time to consider all of the evidence to best inform the development of the Bill.

“This extension does not affect our committed to deliver the National Care Service legislation within the lifetime of this Parliament.”

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