Nicola Sturgeon's 'promise' to help vulnerable young people faces an early test – Susan Dalgety

Today is the first Monday of the rest of Nicola Sturgeon’s life.
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She may still be First Minister while her party decides which government minister is going to win promotion to the top job, but effectively her career as a leading politician is over. So what next for the woman who has been in charge of the country for eight years – though, to some of us, it feels like an eternity?

She said last week that she was not leaving politics. “There are many issues I care deeply about and hope to champion in the future,” she explained. Independence is obviously one, she added, as if that had been in any doubt. “I intend to be there – as it is won – every step of the way,” she promised, which I am sure will delight the next incumbent of Bute House.

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But it was her pledge to vulnerable young people that interested me. She made it clear that she was going spend much of her time working with The Promise, the national organisation that “exists to support Scotland in keeping its promise to care-experienced people”.

Sturgeon said that she wanted to ensure that care-experienced young people grew up nurtured and loved. “My commitment to these young people will be lifelong,” she promised.

The Promise has come in for some criticism recently. Only a few days ago, it was revealed that Edinburgh PR firm Charlotte Street Partners had won a £100,000 contract to promote its work – ten per cent of its £1 million budget. For the record, Charlotte Street Partners was set up by former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson, and top SNP spin doctor Kevin Pringle is now a senior partner at the firm.

Labour MSP Monica Lennon said there were legitimate concerns about the organisation. “Almost two years after the launch of The Promise, there are big questions about what’s being done to improve the life chances of care-experienced people. Hiring consultants… is all very well if it’s making any tangible difference but there is a lack of progress and evidence to prove that everything that can be done is being pursued.”

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The Promise has no regulatory powers, nor does it deliver any services for marginalised young people. Some critics go as far as to suggest it is nothing more than an attractive website.

Nicola Sturgeon has spoken of her desire to help vulnerable children (Picture: Andy Buchanan/pool/Getty Images)Nicola Sturgeon has spoken of her desire to help vulnerable children (Picture: Andy Buchanan/pool/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon has spoken of her desire to help vulnerable children (Picture: Andy Buchanan/pool/Getty Images)

Now Nicola Sturgeon – whose government set up the organisation only two years ago – has a chance to prove these sceptics wrong. And where better to start than supporting the most vulnerable young people in our city?

Last year a report showed that children in Edinburgh’s secure care accommodation had been assaulted by staff. The Promise said it was appalled by the revelations.

Yet a year later, a report by Education Scotland criticised the council for failing to provide these young people with even the most basic full-time education. It seems that being “appalled” is not enough.

So First Minister, here’s your chance to live up to your personal promise. Edinburgh City Council is failing the most vulnerable children in its care. What are you going to do about it?