Nicola Sturgeon unveils £250m package to improve mental health services

Nicola Sturgeon today unveiled a £250 million package to help improve Scotland's mental health services, with a strong focus on youngsters.

Nicola Sturgeon will unveil her Government's legislative agenda for the coming year. Picture: WPA Pool /Getty Images

It came as official figures revealed Scots children are facing lengthy waits to see counsellors on the NHS, prompting opposition criticism.

The measures on mental health were the keynote announcement of Ms Sturgeon’s Programme for Government for 2018/19 unveiled at Holyrood as MSPs return after their Summer break.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

The package will mean that an extra 250 school nurses will be provided to ensure that all pupils in Scotland have access to counselling services.

Read More

Read More
Nicola Sturgeon accused of '˜green window dressing' as Scottish Government revea...

It will also support 350 counsellors, she told MSPs at Holyrood.

“As the stigma around mental health reduces, demand for services is rising,” the First Minister said.

“We have a duty to meet that demand quickly and appropriately. That means doing more to support positive mental health and prevent ill health. It means delivering greater provision of mental health support in communities, including schools.

“And it means ensuring that these experiencing serious illness can access specialist services more quickly.”

The Programme for Government also set out plans for an increase of £7 billion in infrastructure investment on more schools, hospitals and roads.

Scottish Conservative mental health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “Care for children with mental health problems across the country is shocking.

“These unacceptably long waits could be causing untold damage to extremely vulnerable people.

“This is not a new problem, but nothing appears to be changing.

“The SNP has been warned about this crisis for years, yet it waits until things are this bad before taking action.”

The First Minister also confirmed that Scotland’s Social Security Agency will make the first payments of the Best Start Grant before Christmas, six months ahead of schedule, helping parents on low incomes with £600 on the birth of their first baby and £300 for subsequent children, to buy family essentials.

Headteachers will be given new powers to become key decision makers in their schools and, in partnership with local government, 750 new, extended or refurbished nurseries will be developed to deliver the Scottish Government’s commitment to double free childcare hours.

New measures will be put in place to provide better support to victims of serious crimes and, in the Year of Young People, the First Minister committed to enshrine children’s rights by incorporating the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into law - going further than the UK government in making children’s rights real.