Nicola Sturgeon will promise a “transformational” spending increase for the Scottish NHS if the SNP wins next month’s Holyrood elections.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Sturgeon will set out how her party is putting the health service at the heart of its plans for the next five years.
The SNP manifesto for the May 6 Scottish Parliament election will contain a pledge to boost frontline NHS spending by at least 20% – a move which would see frontline spending rise by more than £2.5bn by the end of the next Holyrood term.
Sturgeon’s party will also promise voters a £10bn programme on investment in NHS facilities, combined with a minimum 25% rise in mental health spending and the establishment of a National Care Service.
The SNP leader will tell voters how the coronavirus pandemic has “turned life as we know it upside down”.
She will say: “As we recover, we have the opportunity to reimagine our country. Not to return just to how things were – but to build a better nation.”
In a manifesto that she will claim is both “practical” and “unashamedly optimistic”, the First Minister will insist her party has a “transformational ambition”.
She will state: “In this manifesto the SNP is setting out a serious programme for serious times.”
In an effort “to capture the sense of possibility and hope for a better country and better world”, she will say it has the NHS at its heart.
“If the SNP is re-elected we will use our experience to undertake a full-scale post-pandemic remobilisation of the NHS,” the SNP leader will promise.
“Today I am pledging a transformational increase in frontline health spending.
“Investment in the NHS is already at record levels. But the pandemic has placed exceptional pressures on our NHS – and that requires an exceptional response.
“Over the next Parliament, we will increase frontline NHS spending by at least 20%. This will deliver an additional £2.5 billion for frontline health services – and is almost double what an inflation-only increase would amount to.”
The SNP is also promising to set up fast-track cancer diagnostic centres in every health board area, with Sturgeon also pledging to increase Scottish Government investment in mental health services by “at least 25%”.
Every GP practice in the country will have access to a dedicated mental wellbeing link worker, she will add, saying this will create a network of 1,000 additional staff.
Sturgeon will go on to say the “same vision” must be shown for social care services as for the NHS, vowing: “In the next term of parliament, we will establish a National Care Service.
“The National Care Service will improve standards, ensure enhanced pay and conditions for workers and provide better support for unpaid carers.
“It will allow us to introduce a national wage for care staff – to whom we owe so much – and enter into national pay bargaining for the sector for the first time.”
Sturgeon will state: “This will be a major change which requires major investment. So we will increase public investment in social care by 25% over the course of the parliament, delivering over £800 million of additional support for social care.
“Because we believe that social care, just like health care, should be provided on a truly universal basis, free at the point of use, we will also remove charges for non-residential care.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross warned the SNP would “break” its headline promises by focusing instead on a second independence referendum.
In a TV debate, Ms Sturgeon conceded her administration had taken its “eye off the ball” in terms of the the drugs death crisis, with Mr Ross claiming this mean she “let thousands of people needlessly die because of her government’s inaction”.
He warned: “Now she’s preparing to take her eye off the ball again and demand another divisive independence referendum when we’re still recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Scottish Conservatives will keep holding the SNP to account when they break headline promises and focus on another referendum, instead of Scotland’s recovery.”
Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “The promise of new funds for our NHS is to be welcomed and we agree that we need transformational change – but after 14 years of SNP mismanagement we can have no faith in the SNP to deliver it.
“We must remember that as health minister, Nicola Sturgeon’s actions saw a cumulative total of £1bn withheld from the NHS.
“The fact of the matter is that we simply cannot trust the very party that has run down our NHS so badly to oversee its recovery.”