This has been a campaign like no other in Scottish history. The referendum result itself is only part of the story: the passion, engagement and grassroots activism that emerged over the last two years have been quite astonishing in an age supposedly defined by apathy.
We don’t yet know what will come next, but at SAMH we see the potential for both opportunity and risk. To start with the risk. We know that in the run-up to the general election, the political focus in Scotland will be on ensuring that the promise of more powers for Holyrood is enacted. And this is important, but there are other issues that we can’t lose sight of.
Mental health has too often been an afterthought in policy development
The current Scottish mental health strategy ends in 2015 and there is an urgent need to decide what comes next. Mental health has too often been an afterthought in policy development but we can’t allow ourselves to be distracted from the need for a clear and effective new strategy.
Turning to the opportunities, from our perspective the most interesting proposal that Gordon Brown put forward was to devolve the Work Programme. SAMH is involved in delivering the programme, using our expertise in mental health to help people back into work. We see substantial benefit in devolving it to Scotland, but we wonder why no-one is talking about also devolving Work Choice, the employment programme aimed specifically at disabled people? With a far higher success rate in getting people into employment, Work Choice recognises the barriers the people that we work with are facing and helps to overcome them. We want to see this, too, on the menu of areas to be devolved.