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.

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