The difficult in-tray on training, well being, transport, and humanities and tradition

A sequence of choices should be introduced in subsequent few weeks to finish training’s paralysis

John Swinney has unveiled his Cupboard – and regardless of containing a swathe of acquainted faces on the identical briefs, a number of the challenges that face ministers will tackle a brand new perspective beneath Scotland’s seventh First Minister.

Right here our specialist correspondents Calum Ross, Joseph Anderson, Alastair Dalton and Brian Ferguson check out the in-trays on the important thing portfolios of training, well being, transport, and humanities and tradition.

In-tray: Schooling

Newly appointed First Minister John Swinney (bottom, centre-right) and Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes (bottom, centre-left pose for a photo with their new Cabinet. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Newly appointed First Minister John Swinney (bottom, centre-right) and Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes (bottom, centre-left pose for a photo with their new Cabinet. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Newly appointed First Minister John Swinney (backside, centre-right) and Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes (backside, centre-left pose for a photograph with their new Cupboard. Image: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Pictures)

Jenny Gilruth’s high precedence, now she has been reappointed Cupboard secretary for training and abilities, should be to finish the paralysis gripping Scottish training.

The deadlock has seemingly been brought on, partly, by the handfuls of suggestions on the way forward for faculties, faculties and universities which have been made in a sequence of experiences, a few of which had been commissioned by Mr Swinney, the brand new First Minister, in his time as training secretary.

Selections on these suggestions – on the likes of overhauling college {qualifications} and the best way abilities are delivered – had been beforehand pushed again by Ms Gilruth, as was laws on changing the Scottish {Qualifications} Authority (SQA) and Schooling Scotland.

She stated she wished the time to “knit collectively a story linking” the “plethora of various experiences”, whereas she has additionally indicated she didn’t need to foist change on faculties and training our bodies whereas they had been nonetheless coping with the fall-out from the Covid-19 pandemic, together with rising college violence and falling pupil attendance.

On the identical time, considerations have been rising about the way forward for each the college and school sectors, within the wake of ongoing finances cuts.

Ms Gilruth has spoken of the necessity to prioritise tight assets in direction of early years and youthful generations, but additionally has to defend a £900 million annual spend on free college tuition. The controversy over the funding of additional and better training will proceed. Nonetheless, a sequence of key choices are required within the subsequent few weeks, centered on faculties.

Ms Gilruth was already attributable to unveil particulars of the successors to the SQA and Schooling Scotland earlier than the tip of June.

She was additionally anticipated to offer her response to the Hayward evaluation on the way forward for exams and assessments, in addition to producing an motion plan to deal with college violence.

Now she has been reappointed, Ms Gilruth should lastly present the narrative she has been knitting, and begin delivering it as a matter of urgency.

In-tray: Well being

Incumbent well being secretary Neil Grey faces an overflowing in-tray of issues, grievances and impending crises – however what are the priorities they have to deal with first?

Bluntly, Scotland’s largest drawback can’t actually be fastened – the well being secretary can’t make Scotland younger once more. Scotland’s inhabitants is skewing in direction of outdated. There at the moment are way more folks over 65 than beneath 15.

With a 22.5 per cent enhance in over-65s since 2011, Scotland’s tax-paying inhabitants is struggling to correctly fund the healthcare of extra economically-inactive older folks.

Whereas older folks have been paying tax their whole lives earlier than retirement, nearly all of folks have taken extra from the state than they’ve paid in – solely the highest 40 per cent of tax payers within the UK are internet contributors.

That wouldn’t be an issue if the older generations had not less than changed themselves, however falling beginning charges have left Scotland with fewer younger folks to pay for the care of older folks. Secondly, NHS Scotland is buckling beneath an more and more determined recruitment and retention disaster.

There are restricted care placements attributable to staffing shortages, so weak sufferers can’t be discharged from wards. Care staff can earn extra and work in a a lot much less demanding atmosphere, akin to in supermarkets, and are leaving of their droves.

The hospital wards themselves are staffed by a minimal variety of exhausted, overworked and, of their opinion, underpaid workers. There are round 5,000 nursing vacancies in Scotland. The weak sufferers who’re match sufficient to go away have nowhere to go.

The stress in hospital wards is in flip inflicting congestion in A&E, the place sufferers can’t be admitted to hospital beds that don’t exist. Right here too, workers are burned out and in search of the exit.

Individuals are dying needlessly in overcrowded emergency departments. Public Well being Scotland (PHS) figures present that in 2023, 117,741 present sufferers waited over eight hours in Scotland’s A&E departments, regardless of a most of 4 hours being the usual set by the Scottish Authorities.

Scotland’s NHS is on life help – and the well being minister has an unenviable job forward of them.

In-tray: Transport

The transport sector may have heaved an enormous sigh of aid that Fiona Hyslop will proceed as transport secretary – they usually received’t have to begin once more with a brand new minister on the helm.

Ferries have loomed massive amongst her obligations since turning into transport minister in June final 12 months earlier than being promoted to Cupboard rank in February. Lastly getting the primary of two hugely-delayed CalMac vessels in service can be a major political milestone.

However the stress to have Glen Sannox carrying passengers, now anticipated in October, might but construct additional if extra ships within the Scottish Authorities-owned operator’s ageing fleet develop faults over the busy summer time interval.

Ms Hyslop may also should determine on the destiny of CalMac’s itself – whether or not to award the UK’s largest ferry agency a brand new contract when the prevailing one runs out this autumn. Nonetheless, an much more urgent determination can be over the way forward for ScotRail’s peak fares suspension pilot, which finishes on the finish of subsequent month.

Ms Hyslop informed The Scotsman in April she want to prolong it additional if funding was obtainable and the nine-month experiment persuaded folks to change from automobiles to trains.

Senior rail business sources count on it to be continued, however the transfer prices the equal of £30m a 12 months – cash that different Scottish Authorities departments will have a look at enviously.

An replace over Scottish Authorities-owned ScotRail phasing out its remaining diesel trains is awaited, with prepare drivers union Aslef agitating for early substitute of the 40-year-old excessive pace trains over security considerations following the deadly derailment close to Stonehaven in 2020.

The trains are attributable to be decommissioned by 2030 and ScotRail working a zero-emission fleet by 2035, with the latter prone to be put again.

However maybe Ms Hyslop’s largest problem can be setting out a reputable path to reaching the Scottish Authorities’s bold goal of decreasing street site visitors by 20 per cent by 2030, which continues to be awaited greater than three years after it was introduced.

Paradoxically, ministers’ revised dedication to finishing dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness by 2035 is prone to make this much more troublesome – whereas additionally sustaining the mission’s momentum after failing to finish the job by 2025.

In-tray: Arts and Tradition

For these attempting to steadiness the books and preserve the lights on, Scotland’s arts scene has been in a state of disaster for 4 fairly bleak years now.

John Swinney’s determination to retain Angus Robertson as tradition secretary could disappoint some who felt a brand new strategy was wanted to reset the Scottish Authorities’s frayed relations with the tradition sector.

However there’s a robust argument that the very last thing the troubled business wanted was any extra pointless upheaval.

Stability is a long-forgotten idea for many arts organisations as prices have risen whereas funding has remained standstill, with many staff transferring on for higher pay and circumstances.

The following few months are probably the most essential interval for the cultural sector for six years, when Inventive Scotland final introduced a long-term funding programme.

Its subsequent spherical, delayed by a number of years by the pandemic, will play an enormous half in shaping the cultural panorama within the close to future.

Given the significance of the programme, which is supposed to fund work from April 2025, and a promise of choices in October, it’s astonishing that Inventive Scotland has no actual indication of its future budgets.

The federal government lately recommended it should wait till its general finances is ready in December, doubtlessly pushing again choices on theatres, festivals and humanities organisations till January.

Sorting this mess out is by far probably the most urgent situation for Mr Robertson to make swift progress on with John Swinney and Kate Forbes.

Pressured to organize for an additional 12 months of standstill funding, Inventive Scotland is a possible hole of round £47.4m to satisfy the present degree of demand, with none clear steerage, as but, on who or what to prioritise or shield.

Chief government Iain Munro has spent months attempting to steer the federal government to set out its share of the general arts funding pot for future years after repeated pledges that the business would see tradition spending “greater than double” by 2028.

An preliminary announcement, which described the restoration of Inventive Scotland’s funding after a ten per cent lower because the “first step” to delivering on these guarantees, was an embarrassing let-down from the federal government.

Though the prospect of a further £25m within the subsequent monetary 12 months has been dangled, Inventive Scotland nonetheless has no thought if or when it would see any of that.

However given its willingness to focus on its funding hole, Mr Robertson has an excellent thought of what’s going to be wanted to safe the way forward for the sector.

The important thing query is whether or not he is ready to persuade Mr Swinney and Ms Forbes to loosen the purse strings in sufficient time to keep away from a cultural disaster.

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