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NHS and social care workers to get £500 'thank you' from Scottish Government
30 November 2020, 16:34 | Updated: 30 November 2020, 18:05
Every NHS and social care worker in Scotland will receive a £500 "thank you" payment, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.
The first minister announced the move during her address to the SNP conference.
She said applause and recognition shown to frontline workers earlier in the pandemic "was never enough".
Negotiations are currently underway to increase pay for NHS staff, but they "deserve recognition now", Ms Sturgeon said.
"I can announce today that, on behalf of us all, the Scottish Government will give every full-time NHS and adult social care worker £500 as a one-off thank-you payment for their extraordinary service in this toughest of years."
She added there were "no strings attached" to the payment.
But the Scottish Government does not have the power to make the payment tax-free - so Ms Sturgeon is calling on Boris Johnson to ensure "NHS heroes" are not taxed on their payment.
The first minister is also setting out the argument for having another Scottish independence referendum if her party wins in the Holyrood elections next year.
"As an independent country, we can be decision-makers, partners, bridge-builders.
"We have a right, if a majority of us want it, to choose that future."
"That inalienable right of self-determination cannot, and will not, be subject to a Westminster veto," she told SNP members at the party's conference.
Meanwhile, a £100 million fund announced by the Scottish Government has been described by poverty campaigners as a "lifeline" for struggling families over winter.
Ms Sturgeon said part of it will go towards £100 payments to families with children who receive free school meals.
The payments will be made as cash grants, allowing recipients to decide what they will be spent on.
"Families will know best what they need," the First Minister said.
"That's not for government to decide."
John Dickie, the director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), said: "This will be a hugely welcome lifeline for the tens of thousands of families across Scotland who have been hammered by the economic impact of coronavirus.
"It starts to build the bridge that is needed to prevent families from going under before the full roll out of the Scottish Child Payment in 2022.
"It comes when families have faced a year of increased costs and falling incomes as a result of the pandemic with far, far too many forced to rely on foodbanks and charity hardship funds."
Opening up during her speech, the First Minister said the past nine months have been the hardest of her life as she has sought to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
Ms Sturgeon has previously said she has been "scunnered" by Covid-19, which hit Scotland in March.
With more than 5,000 people recorded as dying with confirmed or suspected coronavirus in the nation since then, the First Minister added: "I don't mind saying that these last nine months have been the hardest of my life.
"I've had many dark days and sleepless nights, struggling with the horrendous choices the pandemic has forced upon us.
"At times I've felt completely overwhelmed - as I'm sure many of you have.
"And I feel a deep sadness for the lives that have been lost."