Health services to be in local communities

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has set out plans to increase the range of healthcare, diagnosis and treatment in local communities with more services delivered through pharmacies and GP surgeries.

The party says that super-specialisation and centralisation of health services has left people in remote and rural areas, such as Caithness, with long journeys to hospital for treatment and want to create new measures to encourage staff to take up posts in rural and remote areas.

The Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto will contain proposals to:

  • embed more nurses, dieticians and physiotherapists with GPs so that people can get a wider range of diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care within their community.
  • empower pharmacists to do more prescribing, making use of secure health records.
  • Create strong clinical networks to give peer support to professionals working in remote and rural communities.
  • Change professional education to include more training placements in rural communities to give students a taste for the benefits of the work.
  • Adapt national guidelines so that they support rural healthcare.

The pandemic has had a massive impact on our NHS and the heroic staff who work within it. I want to ensure that the NHS recovery is taken seriously in every corner of Scotland.

There will always be centres of excellence, but we must get far more healthcare in local communities so care is as close as possible to home.

We have seen people in Caithness angry that specialist maternity services have been taken out of their local hospital so that many mothers now have to travel to Inverness to have their baby. We’ve even seen reports of mothers going as far as Livingston.

We want a new deal to increase the range of treatments and diagnosis that are undertaken in communities and hospitals across the country.

In Australia and Canada there are posts called Rural Generalists. There is even an Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine. This makes careers in rural areas much more attractive.

Our plans will increase the number of professionals living and working in rural areas which will help build stronger, diverse communities.

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Raise the starting age for formal education

Scottish Liberal Democrats will include in their manifesto a commitment to raise the starting age for formal schooling to 7, transforming how children learn in what is currently P1 and P2.

The longer early years phase will still be mandatory but it will focus on child development, social skills, outdoor learning, and physical and mental health.

In advance of this, the party would also immediately abolish the SNP’s controversial national testing of five-year-olds which runs contrary to a play-based education and has been heavily criticised by teachers and independent education experts.

At the forthcoming election, Scottish Liberal Democrats will ask voters to back us to put the education system first.

Scottish Liberal Democrats will introduce a truly-play based education until age 7 to give every child a flying start. By learning together through play children develop the skills needed for trickier tasks and are better prepared to shine in areas like literacy and numeracy.

The UK is almost unique in Europe in expecting children as young as 4 or 5 to begin formal schooling. By the age of 9, pupils in Finland have much higher reading levels than pupils in the UK, having started at the age of 7.

In advance of this we would also immediately abolish the national testing of four- and five-year-olds introduced by the SNP and heavily criticised by teachers. Parliament voted to halt them years ago but was ignored. The SNP claimed the support of world-leading experts for the controversial policy, only for those same experts to call it a ‘perverse misrepresentation’ of their work and conclude the tests were ‘completely useless’.

Scottish Liberal Democrats will always be the party of education. It’s time for a historical, radical, and positive change to improve our children’s future. Raising the starting age for formal schooling to 7 is an important part of our plans to make Scottish education the best again.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have been working since 2018 with Upstart Scotland to develop plans to transform how children learn in what is currently P1 and P2.

On 20 September 2018, the Scottish Parliament voted to abolish standardised assessment of P1 pupils. The vote came after the Scottish Liberal Democrats revealed that the government’s P1 testing policy had received hundreds of pages of criticism from teachers describing the tests as “cruel nonsense”, “completely useless” and “a waste of staff resources”.

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Plan to boost teaching

The Scottish Liberal Democrats want to boost teaching and will include the following in their manifesto:

  • More in-class support to help every child reach their potential;
  • A guaranteed job for every teacher for smaller class sizes;
  • An end to the casualisation of the teaching profession that means 1 in 10 teachers are on short-term or casual contracts, risking people leaving;
  • Serving teachers put at the heart of SQA and Education Scotland which the party also wants to substantially reform;
  • A review of workloads and conditions for teachers (McCrone 2), and a minimum starting salary of £30,000 to help attract the best graduates into teaching;
  • A new “teacher premium” for schools in disadvantaged areas consisting of pay supplements designed to attract and reward the best teachers for the schools in greatest need;
  • New, optional, three-year packages for probationer teachers – consisting of the current one-year probationary period plus two further guaranteed years – to help local authorities get graduates to take up posts in certain geographical areas

Teaching must be at the heart of our education recovery. Our plan for teachers will be good for education.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have already secured an extra £80 million for education in the budget but we want to go much further.

Our Education Bounce Back plan offers unprecedented new entitlements and resources for pupils. Staff are critical to all of the good things we want to do. They have worked flat out to give everyone the best education possible over the last year. But they deserve better from the government.

To help children and young people bounce back from the disruption to their education we need to invest in the teaching profession.

Our country is stronger when every individual is able to achieve their potential, but the independent report this week showed a yawning attainment gap and progress falling short.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have an ambitious and comprehensive plan to help children and young people bounce back. It puts the recovery first.

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Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Ruin And Rising (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #3)Ruin And Rising by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was totally OK with all three ending scenarios. At the beginning of this book, you could find yourself rooting for Alina to save the Darkling (or turn dark herself), Alina with Nikolai, and Alina and Mal (even if this was set up from the beginning).

Alina is far from the perfect heroine. In the first book, she’s very naive (though I loved her sarcasm). Since, though, she was forced to grow up, though she continually fights through so many weaknesses.

But back to the ending, I gotta say I think Leigh Bardugo did the right thing, there was no other truly appropriate endgame here.

It will be interesting to view the series on Netflix which starts in the next few weeks.

View all my reviews

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Plan to Fix Social Care

The Scottish Liberal Democrat will include in their manifesto new proposals for the future of adult social care.

These proposals include:

  • The setting of national care service standards with funding put in place to meet those standards;
  • Scrapping charges for care services delivered at home;
  • National standards and local commissioning to involve disabled people and other care users, and be informed by local experience of unmet need;
  • Changes to value the social care workforce better, including a requirement that any care service by any provider must comply with fair work requirements which are set nationally, and all staff should have nationally agreed pay, terms of employment, and career progression;
  • Recognising unpaid carers with better support for respite.

These proposals recognise a series of flaws in what is being done by the Scottish Government, including the threat to local innovation, the risk of a fragmented workforce and significant time delays and lessons learned from previous exercises in SNP centralisation

The pandemic offers us a chance to look at how our society treats our most elderly and vulnerable and think about how to do better.

Disabled people have noted that previous legislation has failed to deliver a system based on their human rights and allowing each individual to achieve their goals. Scottish Liberal Democrats can do better.

There should be a step change in social care so that it is guaranteed for everyone and considered a normal part of life that merits investment. Such a change is the key to improving the quality of life for social care users

It is also time that the gruelling work done by the social care workforce is recognised and respected. That means improving pay, conditions and career progression to match the important work they do.

At this election Scottish Liberal Democrats are committed to putting the recovery from the pandemic first. That means making our social care system something that Scotland can be proud of.

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