Blog | How will the major parties Stand Up for Mental Health?

23rd April 2021

In the latest edition to our campaigner blog series Craig Smith, our Public Affairs Officer, gives a run down of what major political parties are promising on mental health.

On May 6, Scotland goes to the polls to elect a new Scottish Parliament. In the lead up to this important date, SAMH has been calling on all parties to Stand Up for Scotland’s Mental Health.

It’s time to listen to the hopes, fears and needs of people with mental health problems. Informed by the voices of over 2,500 people with lived experience, our manifesto outlines three areas that our next Scottish Government must focus on: 

  1. Children and young people must be able to get help at the first time of asking without the threat of rejection.
  2. An increase in psychological wellbeing support so people can get the help that they need at the right time.
  3. Nationwide access to support and suicide prevention training, so our communities have the confidence to come together to prevent suicide.

The major parties have now all released their manifestos and we are encouraged to see increased mental health spending as a central theme across all the manifestos. The SNP, Greens and Conservatives are pledging that mental health spending will increase to equate to  10% of the overall health budget. The Labour party are committed to spending reaching 11% of NHS spend, while. The Liberal Democrats have taken a different approach, pledging that 15% of new health spend will be directed to mental health.

We also welcome a number of promises in line with our three priority areas. Here’s a brief summary so you can see how parties have responded to our calls for change.  

Children and Young People

The SNP pledges to spend at least 1% of all NHS expenditure on CAMHS,  while the Greens want to invest an additional £161m into these services by 2026, and double the budget for a community mental wellbeing service for children and young people to £30m.

The Conservative Party commitments have a strong focus on school based support, with a promise to invest £8m into additional training for school staff, and holistic support from specialist charities. They also want trained mental health leads with links to NHS mental health teams in every school. 

All other parties have promises when it comes to education, with the SNP looking to introduce  a ‘Student Mental Health Action Plan’ to improve access to counselling and embed mental health into the curriculum. The Liberal Democrats want counsellors available for every school and the Greens will establish a right to access school-based counselling.. Labour are specifically focussed on supporting pupils as they return to school, by offering a mental health assessment to all.

The Liberal Democrats have made a direct commitment to end  rejected referrals, by integrating Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services into a new wider system of multi-disciplinary support. On a similar note, Labour have made a commitment that every child and young person who needs help will get it at the first time of asking.

Additionally, a National Transitions Strategy to support children and young people moving into adult mental health services has been proposed by both the SNP and Labour.

Psychological Wellbeing

The SNP, Labour, Conservatives and Greens have all committed to changes within primary care; with both the SNP and Labour promising every GP practice will have a mental health worker. The Conservatives will focus on a permanent shift towards community mental health services by expanding programmes such as cognitive behavioural therapy and social prescribing. The Greens have also  pledged to expand access to this type of support and additionally, they want 15 minute GP appointments to become the standard.

A new community triage system has been pledged by Labour, the Conservatives and the Greens, all focused on getting people with mild to moderate mental health problems support quickly, with the Conservatives further committing to a six week timescale.  

The Liberal Democrats will focus on the workforce by increasing the overall number of people training to be psychiatrists and psychologists to work in the NHS, and doubling the number of people training on counselling courses, offering £5,000 grants to counselling students.

 The SNP have also said they want to establish a new Digital Mental Health Programme, and want everyone working in the public sector to be offered mental health first aid training.

Suicide Prevention

The SNP and Liberal Democrats have both made commitments on suicide prevention training, with the SNP pledging to continue with existing programmes and double funding. The Liberal Democrats will also restart suicide prevention training programmes, rapidly expanding  the number of people participating and will work with organisations to have a mental health first aider in every workplace.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both proposed emergency mental health services, similar to A&E to support people in crisis, with Labour pledging to integrate these with suicide prevention and substance misuse services, and committing to a national roll out of Distress Brief Intervention Programme and Community Triage.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats want to see the creation of a national Self-Harm Strategy. The Conservatives promise to update the national Suicide Prevention Action Plan, while both Labour and the Liberal Democrats will introduce a new suicide prevention strategy. 

 Moving forward, SAMH will be working non-stop to ensure the next Scottish Government delivers on these promises for Scotland’s mental health.

There is still time to contact your candidates and ask them to Stand Up for Scotland’s Mental Health, learn more at