The pandemic has shown how much we rely upon care services and the people who work in them.

However, they are under pressure like never before. Staff are exhausted.

Two years of the virus and 15 years of SNP mismanagement are each taking their toll.  

So many of the problems in our NHS can be traced back to neglected care services.

In March 2022 alone there were 53,600 days spent in hospital by people who were ready to go home but were waiting on social care packages to be put in place. That has a knock-on effect on operations, hospital stays and even A&E. 

Scottish Liberal Democrats have a rich history of investing in Scotland’s health, introducing free dental and eye checks, free personal care and recently winning £120 million more for mental health. Now we want to do the same for social care.  

Caring for others can be a valuable and rewarding career but at the moment pay, conditions and opportunities for personal development are not where they need to be to attract the workforce Scotland needs. 

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That’s why I want to see the Scottish Government set national pay and conditions standards and deliver the funding required to deliver them.

Too often, narrow task-based contracts prevent carers from building relationships and trust with care users. 

The Scottish Government’s own proposals are a fraudulent attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of care users and care workers. 

While they may cast their plans as a “National Care Service” to mirror the National Health Service, actually their plans amount to allowing ministers to dictate care services, with less local control and no attempt to make services free at the point of use. 

It would be an appalling idea to put the same ministers who were responsible for sending untested and Covid-positive patients into care homes at the start of the pandemic permanently in charge of services.  

A takeover will repeat the expensive mistakes of Police Scotland and the loss of local innovation.  

That’s why Scottish Liberal Democrats believe the focus should be on driving up the quality of care for users and moving quickly to reward staff with better pay, conditions and career progression instead of delaying while new organisations siphon resources from the frontline.

I want to see high quality, flexible and locally-run care services and community care built around individual needs and choices.  

Throughout the pandemic, Scottish Liberal Democrats fought for care home residents. Now we need to build a social care service worthy of all those who work in it and rely upon it. 

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrats leader.