The Scottish Government made a dozen announcements in just two hours as a flurry of spending promises were made a day before “purdah” rules kicked in.
A total of 18 news releases were issued by the government on Wednesday, culminating in the revelation, at 9.25pm, that NHS Scotland staff would be offered a 4% pay rise.
Two-thirds of the announcements were made between 10am and 12.01pm, an average of one every 10 minutes in that two-hour period, according to its website.
From Thursday, the government is not allowed to make significant new decisions involving public money in case they could be seen to influence the election, and civil servants have to take particular care to be impartial.
In the week leading up to Wednesday, ministers had already revealed that the ScotRail franchise would be nationalised, a draft Independence Referendum Bill was published, an independent review was announced into the future of maternity services at Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin, as well as an action plan to support tourism in rural areas, and a national development plan for crofting.
Over the last week there was also £70 million for recycling infrastructure, £1.75m for the Haven Centre in Inverness, up to £20m for better accommodation for travelling people, £18m for drugs services, £10m for police vehicles, £2.8m to help refugees settle, a further £70m for the Young Person’s Guarantee and £500,000 to expand the Outdoor Community Play Fund.
This is as well as a further £4.5m for mental health support for coronavirus patients, £3m for money advice services in GP surgeries, up to £3m for providers of school-age childcare, the opening of a £22m peatland restoration programme, £30m to support third sector businesses, a £48m uplift in investment for Connecting Scotland, £8m for healthcare students, and £1m for armed forces charities.
In reverse order, the announcements that followed on Wednesday were:
1) NHS staff pay rise
The 4% pay offer was described as the “most generous” NHS pay uplift anywhere in the UK, and the biggest single-year increase in pay for health staff since devolution.
2) A ‘Summer of Play’
Funding of £20 million to deliver a range of activities for children and young people and their families over the summer.
3) Future of farming and food production
A series of sector-led reports was published to deliver a “whole industry approach to tackling climate change and restoring and enhancing biodiversity within food production and farming”.
4) Support for pandemic-hit businesses
Latest information was published showing businesses had benefited from more than £1.94 billion in grants paid directly since March 2020.
5) Fair pay for social care workers
It was announced that a commitment to ensure adult social care workers receive at least the Real Living Wage of £9.50 an hour has been agreed with Cosla, and backed by £64.5m of funding.
6) Tackling race inequality in employment
The Scottish Government called on employers in the public sector to review their recruitment procedures and publish the “pay gap” faced by minority ethnic groups in order to “confront, and address, issues of race inequality”.
7) NHS Scotland to adopt the ‘Dying to Work’ charter
Healthcare staff with life-limiting illness will be given extra protections at work under a new charter being adopted by NHS Scotland. It will ensure workers with life-limiting illness are not dismissed because of their condition unless leaving would benefit them.
8) New plan for social enterprises
A new Social Enterprise Action Plan was promised to offer increased support to the sector, supported by more than £5m.
9) Support for people with neurological conditions
More than £700,000 allocated to support 16 projects which help people with neurological conditions.
10) Support for woman injured by mesh
A bill was proposed to enable women who paid for mesh removal surgery to be refunded. The new legislation would be introduced to allow the Scottish Government to meet the travel, medical and other reasonable expenses of those who had mesh removal surgery outwith NHS Scotland.
11) Deer management measures
Measures announced to ensure “effective and sustainable deer management which will help tackle climate change and biodiversity loss”, following an independent review.
12) £19.4 million to support pupils
The fund will support a six-year mentoring programme to help young people reach their full potential.
13) £25 million for tourism recovery
Holiday vouchers, discounts for days out and a marketing fund are included in a new £25 million tourism recovery programme.
14) Steps to increase organ transplants
Innovative technology and increasing living kidney donation were said to be central to a new five-year plan to increase numbers of organ transplants in Scotland.
15) GDP estimates for January
Scotland’s GDP fell by 2.3% in January, according to statistics announced by the chief statistician.
16) Scotland and the world
Statement outlines the Scottish Government’s position on a range of key international issues including opposing nuclear weapons, a desire to engage proactively and energetically with the European Union, resolute support for international development, and a commitment to being a good global citizen.
17) Helping communities recover from the pandemic
The Scottish Government welcomed a report that called for tackling poverty and inequality to be central to the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, highlighting investment of £25m to help take forward a number of actions.
18) Accelerating Scotland’s tech-led recovery
A £7 million programme was announced as well as appointment of Mark Logan, former Skyscanner executive and professor of computing science, to advise ministers on implementing the recommendations stemming from his independent review of the Scottish tech ecosystem.