Local Council Elections Preview: Scottish Liberal Democrats
As we approach polling day for the Scottish Local Council Elections on Thursday 5 May, we'll be reviewing each of the main party manifestos and finding out what they want to achieve at local government level.
We'll focus on what they're saying on issues that affect social workers, including their vision for the National Care Service, tackling poverty and homelessness, implementing the promise and improving mental health services.
Scottish Liberal Democrats
Current number of seats: 67
The Scottish Liberal Democrat’s local election manifesto is called “New Hope: Our Priorities for Local Government”.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats say that “It’s time to move on from the division that has held Scotland back for so long” and want to “get to grips with what matters right now.” They have identified the impact of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis as the biggest challenges facing communities across Scotland.
They are also the only major party to mention social work in their manifesto, stating that they will “Oppose the SNP’s centralisation agenda, including the latest plan to take over social work.”
National Care Service
The Scottish Lib Dems don't explicitly mention the National Care Service in their manifesto. Instead, they say that they will "resist the ministerial takeover of care services". The Lib Dems do say they support the recommendation from the Independent Review of Adult Social Care that there should be a step change in social care with the resources to support it. They believe this can be done through the delivery high quality, flexible and locally-run care services and community care built around individual needs and choices. They add that they will "champion preventative approaches" and "recognise the right of every person to personalised care." They go on to say they will "Involve disabled people and other care users in local commissioning so it is informed by local experience of unmet need."
Tackling Poverty and Homelessness
The Scottish Lib Dems state that "Councils should take a leading role in tackling poverty, meeting local need for affordable housing, cutting living costs and building opportunity." They say they will do this by supporting building of thousands more homes for social rent and pushing the Scottish Government to elevate its nationwide target to match their ambition. Their other housing priorities include:
- Campaign for equality in the subsidies provided by the Scottish Government to councils and registered social landlords so that we can deliver more homes.
- Invest more in upgrading and maintaining existing council housing to raise living standards, including improving the surrounding landscape.
- Expand the supply of low-cost housing options, particularly for young people.
They also say they will "Work with our partners to seek to end homelessness" although they don't go into any further detail.
On tackling the drug deaths crisis, they state that they will "Promote steps to treat drug misuse with compassion and treatment to stop people dying, in addition to providing effective support for needs including housing and employment."
The Scottish Lib Dems don't mention The Promise in their manifesto. They do, however, say they "will improve the life chances of looked after children and those in kinship care, supporting best practice as corporate parents."
They also say they will reduce child poverty and say they will "make full use of Local Child Poverty Action Reports." They say that their councillors will support the "Scottish Liberal Democrats’ Cost of Living Rescue Package" and the Pupil Equity Fund to close the poverty related attainment gap.
The Scottish Lib Dems say that they want to make local authorities "mental health champions". They outline a number of policies in this area:
- Set an ambition to give every local authority workplace the benefits of a mental health first aider, capable of providing peer support and identifying signs of ill health among colleagues.
- Ensure education services have the resources to identify young people with mental health problems and help get them early support.
- Support a preventative approach with more counsellors available for schools.
- Participate in the wider system of mental health support to guarantee that there is no wrong door for accessing services and waiting times are drastically reduced.
- Support all staff to take a trauma-informed approach in their work.
- Campaign for more mental health practitioners for key local settings such as GP surgeries and alongside the police.
The Scottish Lib Dems have a disclaimer at the end of their manifesto which states:
"Every community across Scotland has its own character, needs and priorities. For that reason, Scottish Liberal Democrats do not produce a manifesto for council elections in the normal way. Instead our party is the strongest supporter of local government in Scotland and of empowering our councillors to make a difference. We support the mandate of our local authorities and of local Liberal Democrat council groups. We are united by a framework of values, policy priorities and determined local campaigning. This manifesto toolkit from the Association of Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillors focuses on what Scottish Liberal Democrat councillors can achieve for people in our communities. It is a statement of principles and approach applicable to the very different local challenges and decisions they face. It will form the basis of more comprehensive local policy platforms. A number of policies within this document also require the additional finances and powers for local authorities for which Scottish Liberal Democrats are campaigning."