THE SNP minister in charge of the troubled £1.3billion shake-up of Scotland’s care services has asked the public to help her co-design it.

Maree Todd, who recently said she found the National Care Service “hard to get my head around”, said she wanted to hear from those with direct experience of care.

She said she wanted a national service that was nevertheless “tailored to local needs”. 

The Scottish Tories called it a “ludicrous” contradiction in terms.

The Scottish Government published a Holyrood Bill to set up the NCS last June, calling it the biggest public service reform since the creation of the NHS in 1948.

Then Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said it would end the “postcode lottery” in adult care, by setting national standards and improving working conditions for staff.

Under the plans, adult social care – and potentially other services – would be consolidated into a single body, run by regional care boards who are ultimately responsible to ministers.

However the NCS, priced at between £644m and £1.26bn by 2026/27, faces fierce opposition from councils and trade unions who fear it is a power grab that will cost jobs.

It has also been criticised by Holyrood committees as vague and unrealistic on cost. 

The government has twice delayed a vote on the legislation’s principles, and it is now due at some point after the summer recess. 

Ministers have so far spent £14m on preparatory work, £2.2m of it on consultants.

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Earlier this month, Ms Todd told MSPs that she had found the NCS “a little bit hard for me to get my head around” in her new role as social care minister.

She said at the time she expected “more certainty” around the NCS after talks with “key partners and stakeholders” over the summer, leading to more clarity on the costs.

During a visit to the Allied Health Professionals in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian today, Ms Todd announced 11 public meetings will take place across Scotland over the summer.

Events will take place from Dumfries and Galloway to Shetland, starting in Stirling on June 20, with people able to online if they are unable to attend in person.

Anyone who has worked in the sector, or anyone who relies on the service for themselves or a relative, is invited to contribute.

Ms Todd said: “There are unique demands across the country, which is why we’re going to different areas, ensuring communities the length and breadth of Scotland are represented in designing a national care service tailored to local needs.

“Having listened to care providers, unions and the third sector during the Bill scrutiny process, these meetings will allow anyone who uses care services, has a loved one that relies on care, or has worked in the sector to have their say.

“This will help inform future stages of the Bill as it progresses through the parliamentary process.

“There is general agreement that social care transformation will be of great benefit. This needs us all to have a shared understanding of what is working well and really focus on what’s needed to support people to thrive with the most suitable care for them.

“I would encourage everyone to be part of this conversation. 

“To do this you can look to attend an event near you or join online and be part of what will be the biggest social reform of our lifetimes.”

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Ms Todd’s Tory shadow Craig Hoy said: “This SNP’s retreat by stealth on their doomed National Care Service is getting more and more ludicrous by the day.

“A fundamental criticism of this expensive and widely derided policy is that it will centralise social care provision in the hands of ministers, making it unresponsive to the needs of different local communities.

“You can’t have a national service that’s local – it’s a contradiction in terms. 

“So the SNP are either fully U-turning on a scheme they’ve already delayed but are maintaining the name to try to save face, or this is desperate spin by Maree Todd to give a nod to legitimate concerns over NCS without doing anything to address them.

"Not a single social care stakeholder believes this reckless policy is workable. Rather than delaying or rebranding it, Humza Yousaf needs to ditch his reckless billion pound bureaucracy and divert all available resources to local care provision across Scotland.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “The Scottish Government has absolutely no idea what it’s doing with this legislation. They’re now hoping the public can explain it to them.  

“Dressing up an SNP takeover as a local scheme is utterly nonsensical. This farce needs scrapped not salvaged.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats have stood up against this ministerial takeover from day one because we know a billion pound bureaucracy would fail to address the problems at the root of social care. This is money that needs to be spent on frontline services and staff who are overwhelmed on every shift.”