An emotional Nicola Sturgeon has told her party’s conference that she is to undertake a “root and branch review” of Scotland’s children in care system.
In addition she pledged more choice to parents over pre-school childcare.
The SNP leader’s keynote speech also focused on Europe and what she termed Scotland’s “home-rule” journey.
Ms Sturgeon said that those in the Tory Party, “intent on a hard Brexit”, had caused “insecurity and uncertainty”.
During Ms Sturgeon’s address to the 3,000 delegates, she set out a four-point plan to boost trade and exports. This will include:
- A new “board of trade” to draw on business expertise
- A trade envoy scheme to recruit prominent Scottish business leaders
- A permanent trade and innovation hub in Berlin
- Doubling the number of Scottish Development International staff working across Europe.
She told members: “Let me be crystal clear about this – Scotland cannot trust the likes of Boris Johnson and Liam Fox to represent us.
“They are retreating to the fringes of Europe, we intend to stay at its very heart where Scotland belongs.
“We are in a completely new era. A new political era and a new battle of ideas.
“A new era for our parliament, with new powers and responsibilities, and a new era for our relationship with Europe and the wider world.”
Scottish independence is a theme of all SNP leader speeches, but Ms Sturgeon was keen to emphasise a different “i” word.
She said: “If you remember just one word from my speech today, I want it to be this one.
“It begins with an ‘i’. No, not that one. Not yet. The word I want you to remember is this – inclusion. Inclusion is the guiding principle for everything we do.
“It encapsulates what we stand for as a party and it describes the kind of country we want Scotland to be. An inclusive country.”
‘Their stories have moved me deeply’
It was on devolved policies where she received some of the biggest cheers.
She talked of the ambition her government had to improve the lives and education of the country’s children.
And in an emotional address, Ms Sturgeon added: “Recently, I’ve been spending some time with young people who have grown up in care.
“Some of them are here today. Their stories have moved me deeply.
“These young people have challenged me to accept Who Cares? Scotland’s pledge to listen to 1,000 care experienced young people over the next two years.
“And then to use what they tell me to help make their lives better. I’ve accepted that challenge.”
What did the ‘i’ stand for?
Analysis by BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor
Nicola Sturgeon advised delegates that the big theme of her speech was a word beginning with I.
No, not that one, she swiftly told the packed hall. The word she had in mind was “inclusion”. Ms Sturgeon then deftly contrived to deploy that word in a range of ways.
Firstly, she sought to contrast the Scottish government and Scotland with what she characterised as the emerging xenophobia of the UK Conservative administration. It is a dichotomy which sundry speakers – including the FM in her Thursday address – have sought to project. It is, needless to say, challenged by said UKG.
Secondly, she turned it into a policy function. Her voice close to breaking, her countenance close to tears, she referred to audience members in the front row who had been through the care system.
Too often, she said, the system was about stopping things – while she acknowledged the need for controls and safeguards. She described the problems which sometimes confront those in care while promising a full scale review of the system to enhance social inclusion.
Then, more subtly, she deployed her I word with regard to Brexit and the prospect of indyref2. Those who supported independence, she said, must understand and respect those who took a different view.
What were Nicola Sturgeon’s policy announcements?
- From April 1 next year, 100,000 business premises will pay no business rates under an extension to the small business bonus.
- By October next year the Scottish government will aim to have payment of the living wage extended from 600 accredited living wage employers to at least 1,000.
- A consultation has been launched to look at allowing parents to choose a nursery or childminder that best suits their needs and – as long as the provider meets agreed standards – ask the local authority to fund it.
- The first boxes under the Baby Box scheme, announced in September, will be handed out in pilot areas on New Year’s Day.
- By the end of this parliament, Ms Sturgeon promised that her government would increase spending on primary care services to 11% of the frontline NHS budget.
Emotional Nicola Sturgeon pledges children in care review}