As Parliament returns, our Policy Lead, Gordon Johnston, analyses the co-operation agreement struck between the SNP and Greens and what it means for mental health.
After several months of negotiation, The Scottish Government and Scottish Green Party published their draft co-operation agreement and shared policy programme. This was further detailed in this week’s Programme for Government for the coming year.
While many of the headlines were widely known, what does the agreement mean for mental health policy?
Well, there is some good news. The policy programme explicitly recognises mental health as a shared priority, as set out in the extract below. It also establishes a set of amended proprieties and the actions it commits to will move us much closer to the implementation of SMHP’s manifesto asks.
The policy programme recognises the impact of the Covid period on population mental health and talks of a need for a move towards prevention and early intervention approaches, in addition to safe and effective treatment of those with mental ill health. This sounds very much like the “Promote, Prevent, Provide” framework that we set out in our election manifesto.
Several of our specific manifesto asks for the first 100 days of a new government are also included in the agreement. These include substantially increasing investment in mental health, with specific commitments to increased spending on children’s services, school based support and community based services.
There is also a commitment to develop a long-term mental health workforce plan in the first half of the parliamentary session. This is something that was not in the SNP’s manifesto and may well be a “Green gain” during the policy negotiations. This is significant for several of our members, with staff shortages and recruitment difficulties in many areas reported as causing pressures in the system and resulting in many people not getting help and support when they need it.
Our key ask in all of the meetings we’ve had with politicians from across the parliament since the election has been for the mid-term review of the Mental Health Strategy, due in 2022, to become a radical refresh with a new vision and a new set of actions.
The policy programme talks of a “review and refresh” of the Strategy with “a refreshed and refocused set of mental health commitments”. The language here is appreciably more expansive than that used up to now by Scottish Government, and we think this is a significant development.
Much of the media discussion on the negotiation of this co-operation agreement has focused on constitutional and environmental issues. But these potentially significant changes in approach to mental health policy may turn out to be very important for all of us.
Scotland’s Mental Health Partnership is pleased to see that several of our key ideas and policy proposals are now rising up the political agenda. We look forward to continuing discussions with the Minister and Scottish Government officials on how these commitments will now be implemented.