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Would-be first ministers urged to put public services ‘top of the list’

The three candidates running to be Scotland’s next first minister are being urged to commit to making sure public services “remain a priority”.

Leaders of the trade union Unison made the plea to current Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and former community safety minister Ash Regan as the contest to replace Nicola Sturgeon continues.

Tracey Dalling, the union’s regional secretary for Scotland, said they want to know that public services are “top of the list” for the three leadership candidates.

Unison is urging the next first minister to devolve power away from the Scottish Government, but also said it wants more cash for local councils, calling on those running to succeed Ms Sturgeon to commit to giving local authorities a “real terms sustained increase in local government funding” to help fund wokers’ pay claims.

The three candidates are also being pressed on whether they will abolish the council tax – something the SNP had pledged to do in its 2007 manifesto – and replace it with a “better and fairer property tax”.

The union is also urging action to address the “staffing crisis” and wider workforce issues in the NHS, along with reforms to the planned National Care Service – insisting current proposals from the government for this are “not fit for purpose”.

The candidates are also being urged to commit to providing public services with the funding to “move to net zero as soon as possible”.

Speaking as the leadership contest continued, Ms Dalling said: “Unison members are the heart of public services, delivering the essential services that protect, enrich and change lives.

“But they don’t just work in public services, they and their families use them too, and they want to know that public services are top of the list for all SNP leadership candidates.

“It is vital that our new first minister continues to work closely with Unison to ensure public services remain a priority for Scotland.”