Willie Rennie, seen here seemingly enacting a scene from Lady and the Tramp with a therapet during the election campaign, has called on Nicola Sturgeon to appoint a dedicated minister for mental health when the new Scottish government is announced next week.
A major part of the Liberal Democrat election campaign was a call for a step change in the way mental health services are supported. Willie said that this appointment would send a clear message that the Scottish Government is taking mental health issues seriously:
Mental health spending has been cut as a share of the overall NHS budget every year since 2009 and too many young people still wait more than a year for urgent treatment.
Everywhere I went during the election people came up to me to say how important they felt it was to hear a political leader speaking out on mental health. It has been kept as a Cinderella service for too long.
It is clear to me that we need a minister for mental health with the status, resources and clout to make a difference.
Other ministers might not like a service being singled out like this, but too bad. The situation on mental health in Scotland is too serious to wait any longer.
The previous Government had a minister nominally covering mental health on a part-time basis but they still allowed their mental health strategy to lapse at the end of last year. That simply isn’t good enough. It is borderline incompetence.
The failure to renew the strategy has meant tens of millions of pounds remains unallocated because officials have no clue of the government’s priorities. That has to change.
I want a new minister for mental health to drive forward change. Scotland should double the amount it spends on support for young people through Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services and should have new mental health support in every GP practice and A&E department.
This is a big programme of work that needs a full time minister to lead.