Humza Yousaf's programme for government showed the SNP is out of energy, ideas and time – Jackie Baillie

The First Minister’s speech about his government’s plans was so short on content that he even had to speak slowly

What a scorcher. I am of course talking about the weather and not the First Minister’s programme for government. Humza Yousaf’s speech to the Scottish Parliament this week, which was meant to outline what the SNP government will do in the next year, generated so much hot air that some meteorologists reckon it must be the cause of this week’s heatwave. But in terms of content, it wasn’t that sizzling, more like yesterday’s porridge reheated.

Most of the speech, delivered slowly to cover for the lack of actual strategy, was a re-announcement, a repackaging of existing commitments or a signal of new delays. The free school meals roll-out has now been pushed back to 2026, that bus was due last year. Extending childcare, the big announcement, sounds good but the existing SNP expansion has been under-resourced and has weakened an already struggling sector so it may not make any practical difference.

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Tick-tock, tick-tock. Count the minutes, it took 22 of them before Mr Yousaf even mentioned the NHS. Little wonder, as he had little new to say. Two years ago, when he was Health Secretary, he published the NHS recovery plan and it has failed to deliver as every statistic shows. One in seven Scots are on hospital waiting lists, recovery should mean waits go down, not up.

His rabbit out of the hat this year was a proposal to raise wages for social care staff to £12 an hour – another hollow promise. We can all agree that supporting people to live independently in their own communities is a laudable target. But it is about more than freeing up beds in clinical settings and giving dignity to people to live their own lives. Our social care sector is in crisis, largely due to a workforce shortage.

Scottish Labour called three years ago for a pay rise of £12 per hour for social care staff. If the SNP had listened and acted, that pay rise, after inflation, would be worth almost £14. Instead, dedicated care workers will in fact be short-changed by almost £2 when they receive Humza Yousaf’s “rise” next spring.

We’ve also called on the SNP to deliver on its manifesto promise to end non-residential care charges. Yet they are going up. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, they refuse to act. Will they never learn? As people struggle today, they promise jam tomorrow.

Scotland needs a programme for government to match the crisis in the cost of living and our health services. Labour will deliver a true NHS recovery plan that creates a modern service based in communities, values staff and focuses on promoting health as well as treating illness.

We will end the cuts to primary care services and deliver a mental health worker in every GP, and harness technology and innovation so patients can be treated more quickly. We will grow the NHS workforce, paid for by funding from a UK Labour government’s plans to end the non-dom tax loophole.

Scotland needs a government focused on the issues that matter to people, the cost of living and the NHS crisis. Instead, we had another failed-on-the-runway relaunch from an SNP government which is out of energy, out of ideas, and, tick-tock, running out of time.

Jackie Baillie MSP is Scottish Labour’s deputy leader



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