Publication - Speech/statement

First 100 Days Debate: Deputy First Minister's statement - 31 August 2021

Published: 31 Aug 2021

Opening remarks by Deputy First Minister John Swinney in the Scottish Parliament on 31 August 2021.

Published:
31 Aug 2021
First 100 Days Debate: Deputy First Minister's statement - 31 August 2021

On 26 May, the First Minister made a statement to Parliament outlining our ambitious programme to deliver the nation’s recovery from the Covid crisis.

Central to that programme would be the delivery of the commitments we set out in our First Steps Plan during the election campaign. In the 100 days after the First Minister was elected by Parliament, we have applied a clear focus to delivering 81 priorities in that programme that would materially improve the health, safety, security and wellbeing of the people of Scotland. 

That period ended on 25 August, and today I can confirm that the Government delivered 80 of those 81 commitments. This is a significant achievement and one which clearly demonstrates that this is a Government committed to delivering on its promises to the people of Scotland.

Successful completion of these commitments required a coordinated, collective effort across Government and with our partners. I welcome the progress that has been achieved, and I want to thank all those involved in the delivery of these commitments. 

These targeted interventions will deliver positive change for the people, families and communities who need it most – and for our economy, our public services and the environment.

They touch on every ministerial portfolio, and they will have an impact in communities the length and breadth of Scotland and will have a lasting benefit for years to come.

Our most immediate priority has of course been to lead Scotland safely through the pandemic and to steer a careful course back to what can be the closest we can achieve to normality, reopening communities in a safe and responsible fashion. That has only been possible due to the success of our vaccination programme.

Every adult in Scotland has now been offered their first dose of a Covid vaccine, and we expect everyone who is eligible to be offered their second dose by 12 September. Drop-in or open-access clinics are now offered in all mainland health boards for those aged 16 and over. In total, 91% of adults have received their first dose and 83% have received their second. This includes 92% of healthcare staff and 94% of individuals who are shielding due to clinical vulnerability.

Although enormous progress has been made, Covid remains a significant threat to our people and the sharp rise in cases in the last two weeks is a cause for a high degree of concern. Ministers are carefully assessing the case numbers and the relationship to hospitalisation levels. The First Minister will update Parliament on these considerations in her statement to Parliament tomorrow.

Last week, the Government took the necessary steps towards learning lessons and improving understanding and preparedness for future pandemics, when we published a set of draft Aims and Principles for an independent public inquiry into the handling of COVID-19 in Scotland.

It forms the basis of a process to listen to the views of those affected, especially the bereaved, on what they wish to see from an inquiry. We have already started engaging with bereaved families, who we want to put at the heart of the inquiry and its approach.

We will ensure that the inquiry has the necessary scope to consider the breadth of the impact of the pandemic on the population, across what we would habitually refer to as the four harms of Covid harm, non-health Covid harm, social and economic harms to ensure that inquiry is able to explore the full range of the actions of government and our partners, and to subject those and the decision-making process that was involved to full and open scrutiny.

Our continuing move back towards normality would not be possible without a strong and sustainable health and care sector. Throughout the pandemic, our NHS and care services have worked tirelessly to deal with the increased strain of Covid on top of the other ongoing health and care needs of the population.

In our 100 Days programme, we recognised the selflessness of NHS and care staff by delivering on our commitment to implement the most generous pay rise anywhere in the UK for NHS Scotland Agenda for Change Staff. This average four percent pay increase benefits around 154,000 employees.

We also took steps to grow our health and care services to meet future challenges. Last week, the First Minister launched the NHS Recovery Plan to meet our ambition of increasing inpatient, day case, and outpatient activity by 10%.

The plan is backed by over £1 billion of additional investment to support delivery of improvements throughout the five years of this Parliament. Amongst other things, it will increase primary care investment by 25% and restore face-to-face consultations in GP surgeries. Its will reduce A&E attendances by 15 to 20%, and increase outpatient capacity by 10% compared to pre-Covid levels.

We also launched, again as part of a 100 Days commitment, a consultation earlier this month to seek the views of the public on a National Care System.  We have heard a great deal about the problems people face in the current system. Now we want to engage the public and all interested parties to build a better and a more sustainable approach that meets the needs of members of the public throughout the country.

However, health and care services are only one aspect of how the 100 Days commitments materially improve the lives of the Scottish people. We also took steps to further invest in our communities, our homes, our families and the connections that help us to thrive.

For instance, we have begun development of a new five-year plan focused on tackling loneliness and social isolation head on.

We saw that being experienced during Covid, it was illustrated clearly and powerfully to us, so we’ve backed it with £10 million over five years, and we recognise that that will be the first step to tackle the intensification of this issue that the pandemic has resulted in.

On 29 July we announced almost £1 million in funding to organisations tackling isolation and loneliness over this summer and into early 2022.

We are also working to better connect communities across Scotland, and one of the specific measures in the 100 Days commitments was the building of 14 new mobile phone masts in remote, rural and island areas. Eight of these have already been activated for 4G service and the remaining six will be activated by November.

We’ve taken further significant steps to eliminate poverty and inequality in Scotland by beginning work to design and deliver a Minimum Income Guarantee. This radical policy will help everyone to receive an income sufficient to live a dignified, healthy and financially secure life.

This is only a sample of how we are ensuring our collective, future prosperity. Through the 100 Days commitments, we invested in jobs and our economy, both to mitigate the harmful effects of Westminster’s Brexit and to help Scotland recover from the pandemic.

We know both these issues have been particularly hard on local businesses, tourism and hospitality. That is why, amongst other things, we allocated up to £62 million in direct financial support to taxi drivers and operators. £25 million fund to tourism, including holiday vouchers for unpaid carers and low income families, and we launched the Scotland Loves Local campaign with a loyalty card scheme and a new £10 million fund to help revitalise high streets hit by the pandemic.

In addition to this immediate support, we are taking steps toward a long-term, sustainable economic future. Our vision for Scotland is to create a wellbeing economy – a society that is thriving across economic, social and environmental dimensions, one that delivers sustainable and inclusive growth for Scotland’s places and people.

As part of the wider approach to the 100 Days commitments, particularly in relation to economic policy, we established an Advisory Council to shape our 10-year National Strategy for Economic Transformation, which will be published later in the autumn.

The strategy will set out the steps we will take to deliver a green economic recovery and support new, good green jobs, businesses and industries in the future.

If we are to secure that long term sustainable future for our economy and our communities, we cannot fail to address climate change and its impacts.

We have worked with partners to ensure the COP26 summit in Glasgow in November will be both safe, and we hope, successful in relation to tackling climate change.

To demonstrate Scotland’s commitment to tackling climate change, we have published our indicative Nationally Determined Contribution, based on our world-leading 2030 target to reduce emissions of all major greenhouse gases by at least 75%.

We have delivered on our commitment to establish the Green Jobs Workforce Academy to ensure we can match the skills with the job opportunities that will drive our transition to net zero.

Amongst the measures taken in this respect, we have completed the creation of 12,000 hectares of woodland, convened the Bus Decarbonisation Taskforce, which will work to remove fossil fuels from public transport and are also making £50 million available in 2021 to help drive a green recovery, responding to the global climate emergency and helping to improve air quality through the Scottish Zero Emission Bus Challenge Fund.

Alongside the measures to build a green and sustainable long-term future, we are investing in the future of our people. Within the 100 Days commitments, we took steps to ensure children and young people in Scotland will have the best start in life and that families will be supported to recover from the diff­icult period that all families have faced.

We provided £20 million for a Summer Offer of activities for children and young people most affected by Covid to reconnect, to have fun and to learn.

We introduced free school lunches for primary 4 children as the first step to delivering free school breakfasts and lunches for all primary school pupils, and I’m grateful to Local Authority leaders for their agreement to approach that we’ve taken, which has meant that at the start of the school year primary 4 children have been able to benefit from this support.

We’ve also made available funding to Local Authorities to increase teacher numbers by 1,000 and classroom assistants by 500 – as part of our commitment to 3,500 additional teachers and 500 more pupil support assistants over the Parliamentary term.

And since 18 August at the start of term, we’ve supported all local authorities to offer 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare to all eligible children – perhaps the most significant contribution we can make to enhancing the nurture and the support of our youngest citizens at the most critical time in their lives.

The Government is focused on ensuring that we continue the delivery that we have achieved in the first 100 days to deliver on the expectations of the people in Scotland.

We’ve set out an ambitious agenda, we have delivered on it in the first 100 days, and we intend to continue to keep delivering on it in the remainder of this Parliamentary term.