Willie Rennie: Mental health strategy needs major rewrite

Willie Rennie with therapy dogs. Picture: Toby Williams
Willie Rennie with therapy dogs. Picture: Toby Williams
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Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has claimed the Scottish Government’s forthcoming mental health strategy “needs a major rewrite”. He highlighted criticism from organisations including Marie Curie on the draft plan and said many think it is “not good enough”.

He raised concerns at First Minister’s Questions on mental health provision at young offenders institutions, saying there had been a sixfold increase in attempted suicide at YOI Polmont.

Nicola Sturgeon said young people in detention should have access to good quality mental health services to deal with what is often the underlying causes of their offending.

She said the new strategy is aimed at meeting the rising demand for mental health services along with additional funding, including the £10 million recently announced for a two-year project to boost support at primary care level.

Mr Rennie said: “The problem for the First Minister is that mental health strategy doesn’t even mention young offenders. I have told her before that many organisations think the strategy is just not good enough.

• READ MORE: Scots face ‘unacceptable’ mental health waiting times

“Marie Curie said it had nothing for the terminally ill. It is being criticised by the Royal College of Nursing, by psychiatrists and by a whole lot of charities.

“The £10 million announced at the weekend was a drop in the ocean. All the while people are struggling. Hundreds of teenagers are still waiting over a year to get the help they need. Eleven out of 14 health boards can’t even meet the basic target and Police Scotland has lost 200,000 working days from mental ill health.

“Does the First Minister accept that this draft mental health strategy - which is already a year late - needs a major rewrite?”

Ms Sturgeon said: “I think the problem for Willie Rennie here is that he is alleging that the mental health strategy doesn’t cover this particular issue but the mental health strategy hasn’t actually been published yet. It will not be published until the new year.

“We are taking time and care to make sure that the responses, some of which have been cited by Willie Rennie, are properly taken into account.”