Humza Yousaf has insisted he is “absolutely committed” to introducing a national care service for Scotland, but added he is prepared to compromise as he takes the plans forward.
The First Minister said the Scottish Government will hold talks with both local government and trade unions – both of which have been vocal critics of the proposed system.
Promising to engage “intensively” with councils and unions, Mr Yousaf said they will “hopefully find a level of compromise”.
His comments came as Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross branded the move to a national care service a “white elephant”, telling MSPs: “This is all starting to look like another Humza Yousaf disaster.”
With the first Holyrood vote on the proposed changes already delayed until after summer, Mr Ross said the Scottish Government should scrap its proposals altogether.
Raising the issue at First Minister’s Questions, Mr Ross hit out at Mr Yousaf’s record in Government roles, saying: “The man who couldn’t get the trains to run on time, forced police officers to breaking point, and left our NHS in crisis is now doing his best to throw social care into chaos as well.
“He doesn’t know if he is building a national care service or a white elephant.”
Mr Ross condemned the £1.9 million the Scottish Government spent on consultancy fees for the proposed new service in 2022-23, accusing ministers of “paying consultants a fortune”.
He added: “The First Minister has no idea what it is really going to cost. He is throwing public money away when frontline social care services are in desperate need of more funding.
“The SNP could be investing to improve these local services, instead they are creating a bureaucratic nightmare and want a blank cheque to do so.
“The very last thing our struggling care service needs is an administrative overhaul costing billions of pounds when it is being starved of cash from the frontline.
“So will Humza Yousaf do the right thing, stop wasting taxpayers’ money and scrap these plans altogether?”
Mr Yousaf insisted his Government is “absolutely committed to our plans for a national care service”, saying it will “ensure fair work is at the very heart of any future care service”.
On consultancy costs, he said it is important for the Scottish Government to bring in people with the “additional, technical, specialist expertise” that would help “ensure we make progress on the legislation itself”.
He said the delay to the legislation setting up the new system will allow ministers to speak to both local government and trade unions.
The First Minister said: “We are doing that in order to hopefully find a level of compromise in the national care service which will allow us to take that forward with hopefully an element of consensus.”
He added that “depending on what that compromise is”, it would determine what changes there are to the overall cost of the reforms.
Mr Yousaf said: “We will engage with trade unions, engage with local government, and hopefully we will reach a compromise position on the national care service and we will come back with a revised financial memorandum.”
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