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The Manifestos & What They Say On Mental Health

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

Scotland’s Mental Health Partnership has been working to have a positive influence on the contents of political parties' manifestos, publicising our “Promote, Prevent, Provide” message to party leaders, current MSPs and new candidates and to the party staffers responsible for preparing the manifesto documents.

Now that all five main parties have published their manifestos, this blog summarises what each party has to say on mental health, in order of their 2016 performance. We welcome much of what each party says on mental health, and hope to continue to work with them post-election on enacting some of their key pledges.

Scottish Liberal Democrats

“Put Recovery First” was launched by the Scottish Liberal Democrats on Friday 16 April, and is available from

The manifesto aims to “make sure Scotland is an attractive place to live and work” by taking “a needle-sharp focus on jobs, mental health, our NHS, schools and the climate crisis.”

Specific mental health proposals include:

· 15% of new health spending to be directed to mental health;

· Expand community based mental health provision, including more mental health professionals working in primary care, doubling specialist psychiatrists in training for young people and doubling the numbers on counselling courses;

· Make walk-in services available though mental health emergency services, described as similar to A&E;

· Reform CAMHS and end rejected referrals by providing a wider multi agency support system;

· More counselling support in schools;

· A refreshed mental health strategy with raised ambition;

· Work towards having a mental health first aider in every workplace; and

· Start work immediately on a new suicide and self-harm prevention strategy.

On Feeley, while supportive of much of the approach, the Scottish Liberal Democrats do not support creating a National Care Service, citing loss of local influence. Instead, a combination of national care standards and local commissioning is proposed.

Scottish Greens

The Greens were first out of the blocks, publishing “Our Common Future” on Wednesday 14 April. Full details are available at

Described as “a bold plan to build a better future for all of us over the next five years and through to 2030”, the Greens set out a manifesto that puts “green industries, infrastructure and action at the heart of our plans for Scotland’s economic recovery.”

On mental health, the Greens make a number of specific pledges:

· 10% of frontline health spend to be allocated to mental health by 2026, estimated at an additional £235M per annum;

· An additional £161M to be invested in CAMHS by 2026 and the community wellbeing budget for young people to be doubled to £30M;

· Increased access to mental health support through GP practices, community triage and more CBT, social prescribing, exercise referral and peer support; and

· Develop a long term mental health workforce plan.

The Greens also commit to build a National Care Service, rooted in a human rights-based approach and publicly owned, with private sector provision to be removed from social care “in the long term”.

Prevention and early intervention is included in relation to public health, although mental health is not specifically mentioned. The goal here is to tackle the root causes of poor health, such as “poverty, smoking, drug and alcohol misuse and air pollution”.

Mental health is also mentioned in sections dealing with better support for students, children and young people, healthcare workers and social care workers.

Scottish Labour

Scottish Labour launched its “National Recovery Plan” last, on Thursday 22 April. It is available from

Described as “a collection of five distinct recovery plans for our jobs, NHS, education, climate, and communities”, Labour argues that as we come out of the pandemic period, Scotland requires, “a collective national effort to drive forward the change our country needs.”

Specific mental health pledges from NHS and Social Care Recovery include:

· Increase the mental health budget to 11% of the NHS budget, to match spending in England and Wales;

· Transformation of the Mental Health Strategy, strengthening the links with social infrastructure to prevent poor health;

· A long term strategy for suicide prevention;

· Better integration between education, social work, NHS, and the voluntary sector to focus on relationships with young people;

· A new referral and triage service, with every GP practice in Scotland having access to a dedicated mental health worker;

· Dedicated mental health A&Es in every health board area, integrated with suicide prevention and substance misuse services, to support people in crisis;

· Improve teaching practice on health and wellbeing throughout the education system with consistent training and additional mental health counsellors in colleges;

· Development of a National Transitions Strategy to improve outcomes for children and young people experiencing mental ill-health in their transition to adulthood;

· National roll out of Distress Brief Intervention;

· Offer a mental health assessment to every school pupil; and

· Establish a back to the workplace support programme for employers.

On Feeley, Labour supports the creation of a National Care Service with social care delivered locally. On pay, an immediate rise to £12 an hour, and a pledge to work with trade unions towards a further rise to £15 an hour is made.

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

“Rebuild Scotland” was launched by the Scottish Conservatives on Monday 19 April and is available from

The manifesto sets out priorities to tackle “the long and difficult task of rebuilding the Scottish economy, of getting businesses back to earning a living and creating jobs for those people who have been left unemployed.”

Specific mental health pledges include:

· Increase mental health funding to 10% of the frontline health budget during the next Parliament;

· Invest an immediate £8M in additional training for school staff and holistic support from specialist mental health charities to improve young people’s wellbeing;

· invest a further £5M over the course of the next Parliament to continue the rollout of a nationwide Distress Brief Intervention programme;

· Expand community mental health services and introduce community triage centres to offer those with mild to moderate problems support within six weeks;

· Develop a Self-Harm Strategy and work with stakeholders to update the Suicide Action Plan; and

· Develop a comprehensive multi-agency workforce plan.

On Feeley, there is support for the principles and for viewing social care as an equal partner to the NHS. But the Conservatives see this as best delivered through local authorities rather than a national agency and would look to develop new governance arrangements.


The SNP’s manifesto “Scotland’s Choice” was published on Thursday 15 April and can be downloaded from

Setting out a “bold and ambitious policy programme to kickstart and drive recovery”, the manifesto also focuses on the constitutional question, “seeking your permission at this election for an independence referendum to be held after Covid”.

One of the headline commitments is to increase frontline NHS spending by at least 20% over the life of the parliament, estimated to increase spending by over £2.5 billion.

Specific pledges on mental health are:

· Increase direct investment by at least 25% and ensure that, by the end of the parliament, 10% of the frontline NHS budget will be invested in mental health;

· Ensure every GP practice has access to a link worker, creating a network of 1,000 additional dedicated staff;

· Offer mental health first aid training to everyone in the public sector by the end of the parliament;

· Take forward the recommendations of the Barron Review into forensic mental health services and the Scott Review into mental health law and practice on compulsory detention (to be published);

· At least 1% of frontline NHS spending to be spent in CAMHS and a National Transitions Strategy to be introduced;

· Suicide prevention spending to be doubled;

· Establish a new Digital Mental Health programme; and

· Introduce a student mental health action plan which addresses waiting times, ensures equity of access to counsellors and embeds mental health and wellbeing into the curriculum.

The SNP also commits to taking forward the recommendations of the Feeley review and establishing a National Care Service in the next parliamentary term.

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