Nicola Sturgeon vows more cash for NHS and carers in 'can do' Scotland


Nicola Sturgeon set out her vision for a "can do Scotland" with a promise of extra cash for the NHS and more money for carers.

The First Minister also vowed there would improvements to nursery care if her SNP is voted back into power in next May's Holyrood elections and "put her neck on the line" on efforts to close the educational divide between rich and poor.

Closing that gap is at the hearts of the Scottish Government's agenda, she told the SNP conference in Aberdeen.

Ms Sturgeon said: "It matters so much to me that I've done something politicians don't often do.

"I've put my own neck on the line.

"If I'm standing here seeking re-election five years from now I want to be judged on the progress we make."

In the Scottish elections next May Ms Sturgeon will, for the first time, ask the public to back her to be the nation's first minister.

Taking on the job last November was the "biggest honour" of her life, she said.

If the SNP is voted into government for a record third time at Holyrood, she pledged an extra £200 million for the NHS to create a new network of elective treatment centres.

The Golden Jubilee Hospital in Clydebank is already home to a specialist unit carrying out procedures such as hip and knee replacements and cataract surgery.

It would be expanded, with five new centres set up in Edinburgh, Livingstone, Dundee, Inverness and in Aberdeen.

Ms Sturgeon hailed that as "real action" from the SNP government "making our NHS fit for the future".

There was also a promise to carers, with the SNP leader saying she would use new powers over welfare that are coming to Holyrood as part of the Scotland Bill to increase the amount of cash they receive.

If her party wins in May she said the SNP will publish a Scottish Social Security Bill in the first year of the new parliament, setting out how it would use the "limited new welfare powers".

She told the conference: "I can confirm one of the specific commitments that the Bill will include.

"The contribution carers make to our society is priceless. But the support they receive in the form of carers' allowance is the lowest of all working age benefits.

"That is simply not fair.

"That is why I'm delighted to announce today that when our government gets the power to do so we will begin to increase carers allowance so that it is paid at the same level as jobseekers' allowance."

That policy, which will cost £40 million a year, will provide carers with an extra £600 a year, she said.