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Leader's speech

FM pledges £500 to NHS staff and support for apprentices

Nicola Sturgeon called on Boris Johnson to make payment tax free

Nicola Sturgeon today promised a one-off payment of £500 to the country’s health and social care workers – and then asked Boris Johnson to make it tax-free.

The SNP leader, addressing the final day of the SNP annual conference, said the payment was a “thank you” for the work of NHS staff during the pandemic.

The money will be paid in this financial year and it will be separate from any negotiations about pay for the longer term.

“There are no strings attached,” she said. “We are asking nothing of the UK government – with one exception.

“Because we don’t control the full tax and benefits system, we don’t have the power to make this payment tax free.

“But Prime Minister, you do. So I am asking you this: Please allow our health and care heroes to keep every penny of Scotland’s thank you to them. Do not take any of it away in tax.”

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Ms Sturgeon also announced a new commitment to help young people find jobs. She said the government will pay companies £5,000 for each apprentice they take on.

The Young Person’s Guarantee aims to give everyone aged 16-24 the guarantee of work, education or training and, as part of that commitment, she announced a Pathway to Apprenticeships programme that will provide work-based training and a £100 a week allowance for school leavers up to age 18.

It will start by helping 1,200 young people gain key skills in sectors like construction, business, IT, engineering and early years.

The government will also invest £15 million to help more employers take on an apprentice.

“Businesses want to give young people opportunities, but for many the impact of the pandemic will make the costs too hard to meet,” she said.

“So we’ll pay employers £5,000 for every new modern apprentice they take on between the ages of 16 and 24.”

For apprentices who are care leavers, disabled or from minority ethnic communities, the £5,000 grant will be available up to the age of 29.

More generally, for every apprentice age 25 or over, the government will pay employers a grant of £3,500.

“This investment will enable thousands more young people to secure an apprenticeship as they start their working lives,” said Ms Sturgeon.

“These are the kind of measures we are taking, working alongside business and trade unions, as part of a national mission to create jobs as we recover from Covid.”

Case for independence

Ms Sturgeon once again set out the case for independence, arguing that Scotland had the “resources, wealth and talent” to go it alone.

“As we look ahead, we should have every confidence in what is possible if we do take our future into our own hands,” she said.

“Far from being too wee, Scotland is the ideal size to succeed.

“Independent nations of similar size to us are amongst the wealthiest, fairest and happiest in Europe.

“If Denmark can be a successful independent country, why not Scotland? If Ireland can and Norway can, why not Scotland?

“We have the resources, the wealth and the talent.

“As an independent country we can decide how best to use all those resources, all that wealth and all that talent.

“We will be the decision-makers.

“Our relationship with our closest friends in the rest of the UK won’t come to an end.

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“It will be a stronger and better one. Because it will be a partnership of equals.

“As equal partners we will co-operate and work together. We will learn from each other.

“But we in Scotland will be decision makers, able to chart our own course and build our own future.

“As an independent country, we can be bridge-builders too.

“A bridge between the UK and Europe.

“Helping to create economic opportunity, deepen understanding and bring people closer together.”

Sturgeon ‘grandstanding’ says Tory leader

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “This was a series of SNP promises brought to you by [Chancellor] Rishi Sunak’s spending.

“It seems the SNP are finally getting around to using the vast sums of UK Government funding to fight the pandemic, although businesses and workers will be left wondering why they held off until SNP conference to finally get the money out the door on announcements that should have been made weeks ago.

“The rank hypocrisy from the First Minister on all fronts was galling. She now bends the truth on a daily basis.

“Nicola Sturgeon grandstanded about ‘fundamentally undermining’ the Scottish Parliament – the same Parliament that she has disgracefully ignored twice in the last month.”

Commenting on the First Minister’s announcement of a one off £500 payment for full time NHS and care staff and a pro-rated payment for part time workers, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “A one off payment is no substitute at all for the significant increase in salary that all Scotland’s health and care workers deserve.”



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