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First Minister announces initiative to support youth employment in programme for government

By Scott Maclennan

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Holyrood.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Holyrood.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the SNP’s programme for government yesterday, including proposals to look at the possibility of creating a national care service along the lines of the NHS.

It comes a day after Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross made his big policy announcement, focussing on nationwide infrastructure and a pitch to ramp-up support for business.

Speaking in Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon promised a raft of measures that are seen as a response to the Covid pandemic including a dedicated contact tracing app and a major youth employment scheme.

Under those plans young people aged between 16 and 24 will be guaranteed one of a series of options ranging from a place at university or college, on an apprenticeship programme, or employment, including work experience or on a formal volunteering programme.

There will be a comprehensive review of adult social care, which will include examining the possibility of a national care service along the lines of the NHS while the distress brief interventions programme will be expanded to help mental health.

Ms Sturgeon announced £275 million for community-led regeneration and town-centre revitalisation, with a particular focus on the 20-minute neighbourhood concept of being able to live locally.

She also revealed that in response to the Black Lives Matter movement the government will sponsor an independent expert group to make recommendations on raising awareness of Scotland’s role in colonialism, slavery and historic injustice, and “how it manifests itself in society today."

The First Minister confirmed the publication of a draft bill setting out the timescale and potential question for a new referendum, though it is acknowledged there will be no vote before the 2021 Scottish elections.

Other measures that would be likely to directly impact the Highlands include more money for Highlands and Islands Enterprise as it would get a share of £50 million to support green jobs.

There was also further confirmation that HMP Highland is likely to progress after it was mentioned as one of the top priorities to modernise Scotland’s prison estate by the First Minister.

She also plans a rapid expansion of digital access to care with video consultations for patients becoming the “default option.” But with many areas in the region struggling with connectivity amid the failure of superfast broadband to be delivered on time it remains uncertain how much of a change this would be in more remote areas.

A new Domestic Abuse Bill will be introduced to parliament with the aim of establishing emergency protection orders to safeguard those at immediate risk.

It is one of just four new bills that will be taken forward in this parliamentary term with the others being – the Budget Bill, a bill to allow St Andrew’s University to award medical and dentistry qualifications.

And in what Ms Sturgeon described as one of the most ambitious Bills ever to be brought to Holyrood, she aims to enshrine the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law as far as is possible.

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