There was a generally positive response from organisations to the plans, which focus on how Scotland will recover from Covid-19
Plans to help Scotland on the long road to recovery from Covid-19 have been generally met with a positive response from the voluntary sector.
Nicola Sturgeon revealed the Programme for Government yesterday (Tuesday 1 September), setting out the Scottish Government’s plans for the next 12 months.
The announcement had a focus on green recovery, aiming to boost employment opportunities for young people and ensuring the nation remains healthy.
A £25m fund to help voluntary sector organisations recover from the coronavirus was one of the announcements made. The fund aims to ensure the sector can continue to support people and communities in responding to the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
The statement said the government is committed to using all the tools at its disposal and to working with business and the third sector in a national mission to help create new jobs, good jobs and green jobs. This includes investing £60 million in a new Youth Guarantee, targeted at those most in need of support, to help them make the transition into work, education, or training. A new £100m Green Jobs Fund will be created while a new Inward Investment Plan aims to create 100,000 high value jobs over the next decade and boost GDP.
Friends of the Earth Scotland’s director Dr Richard Dixon said: “Today’s new focus on creating much needed green jobs is welcome progress from the Scottish Government, but it needs to be followed with rapid action to ensure it becomes more than rhetoric.
“The Scottish Government has shown that they know that the future must be greener, safer and fairer but the economic and climate crises demands that we start that work today. Long term commitments to creating green jobs in areas like energy efficiency are really good news, but we should not wait until the next parliament to make them a reality.
"By taking concrete steps in the coming months to deliver their green jobs commitment, the government will help ensure that we have warmer homes, reductions in climate pollution and new jobs across the country.”
Elizabeth Leighton, of the Climate Emergency Response Group (CERG), said: “We are pleased to see the government’s commitment to a fairer, greener future in its response to the global pandemic. We welcome the decision to invest in our buildings, to make them warmer, healthier and zero emissions by 2040. We also welcome the investment in '20 minute neighbourhoods' - where people can meet their needs within a 20 minute walk of their home – making our cities and towns greener and more liveable. The commitment to a green jobs fund and green apprenticeships will help create and sustain jobs to deliver these goals.”
The announcements were also welcomed by WWF Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Scottish Environment Link.
An independent review will also be held to consider the idea of a national care service. It will be chaired by Derek Feeley, former director general of health and social care in the Scottish Government, and will report by January 2021.
Mike Kirby, Unison’s Scottish secretary, said: “We are pleased the government is actively considering ways to reward the efforts of NHS staff during the pandemic as part of the 2021-22 pay deal and look forward to reaching agreement on this. The developments announced for supporting the mental health and wellbeing of NHS and social care staff are very positive.
"Whilst a number of announcements carry implications for local services, we are disappointed the programme contains nothing which addresses the scale of the current crisis in local authority budgets or the urgency of maintaining essential local services.”
The Mental Health Foundation said it welcomed the importance mental health has been given in recovery plans, and NSPCC Scotland said it is vital that children are supported.
Joanna Barrett, NSPCC policy and public affairs manager, said: “Calls to our Childline service from children and young people who had experienced sexual abuse in the home tripled during lockdown. And there was an increase in referrals from our helpline to Scottish agencies, due to parental behaviour, physical and emotional abuse and neglect, during this time.
“It is, therefore, crucial that any efforts to support children recover from the effects of the pandemic, especially those focusing on mental health, include specialist and timely treatment for those who have endured traumatic experiences, such as abuse and neglect.”
The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) welcomed that the notice period for evictions in the social housing sector on the grounds of antisocial and criminal behaviour will revert to one month from three.
SFHA chief executive Sally Thomas said: “It is vital that when there are cases of serious antisocial and criminal behaviour, social landlords can act quickly to minimise the effects on other tenants, so we welcome the government acknowledging this.”
Introducing the programme, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “The Covid-19 pandemic continues to have a profound impact on our health and wellbeing, on business and the economy - indeed, on our whole way of life. That is true here in Scotland, and across the globe.
“Today’s programme is clear that suppressing Covid is our most immediate priority - and it will remain so for some time. However, it also makes clear that we will not simply hunker down and wait for the storm to pass.
“This Programme for Government sets out plans for a stronger, more resilient and sustainable economy - with a laser focus on creating new, good, green jobs.
“It guarantees opportunities for young people – and refuses to accept that their generation will carry the economic scars of Covid into adulthood.
“It sets out plans to strengthen and reform our public services, including our NHS. And it takes the first step on the road to a National Care Service.
“It promotes equality and wellbeing, with decisive action to combat child poverty. At its heart is the new, game-changing Scottish Child Payment.
“We must treat the Covid-19 challenge not as a brake on our ambitions but as an accelerant – helping us shape a stronger, greener, fairer future.”