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Resource Type Policy & Legislation

Mental Health

Mental Health Strategy

A new Mental Health Strategy 2017 - 2027 was published in April 2017, including steps to improve delivery of child and adolescent mental health service and an audit to look at concerns over rejected referrals and action taken as a result. The Strategy contains 40 actions guided by an ambition “that we must prevent and treat mental health problems with the same commitment, passion and drive as we do with physical health problems”. According to the Scottish Government, that means working to improve:

  • prevention, early intervention, and physical wellbeing
  • access to treatment, and joined up accessible services
  • rights, information use, and planning

The Scottish Government has published details of the governance and monitoring arrangements for implementing the new Strategy. The third annual progress report was published in March 2021.

The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Taskforce was set up in 2018 to ensure that children, young people, their families and carers are supported in good mental health and are able to access services which are local, responsive and delivered by people with the right skills. The Taskforce published their recommendations in 2019.

Mental Health (Scotland) Act

In June 2015 the Mental Health (Scotland) Bill was passed by MSPs. The Act makes a large number of "minor technical changes" to the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 to help people with a mental disorder access effective treatment more quickly and easily. These include:

  • Measures to increase the use of advance statements, help service users have greater involvement in decisions about their treatment and ensure the Mental Welfare Commission is better informed about the use of advance statements.
  • An opt-out option for services users in relation to the role of the named person.
  • An extension of the right of appeal against being detained in conditions of excessive security to those who are detained in medium-secure units.
  • The introduction of a victim notification scheme for victims of mentally disordered offenders.

The majority of Parts 1 and 2 of the Act, along with associated regulations, came into force from 30 June 2017. 

Mental health and incapacity legislation review

The Scottish Government has announced an independent review of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 and other incapacity and adult support legislation. In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Mental Health Minister Claire Haughey said the overarching review will examine the full legislative framework that supports and protects those with a mental health condition.

In September 2019, the terms of reference for the review were published, confirming it will:

  • Review the developments in mental health law and practice on compulsory detention and care and treatment since the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 came into force
  • Make recommendations that give effect to the rights, will and preferences of the individual by ensuring that mental health, incapacity and adult support and protection legislation reflects people's social, economic and cultural rights including UNCRPD and ECHR requirements
  • Consider the need for the convergence of incapacity, mental health and adult support and protection legislation

The Scottish Mental Health Law Review is chaired by John Scott QC. On 3 February 2020, a 12-week consultation opened to gather evidence on people’s experiences of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) 2003 Act.

A separate independent review of learning disability and autism in the Mental Health Act has published its stage 1 report. The review is considering whether learning disability and autism should continue to be conditions that are covered by the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003. The Stage 1 report contains experiences and views from people across Scotland who have experienced care under the Mental Health Act, and who have worked with the Act as professionals.

Stage 2 of the review is looking at possible options for reform of the Act, with the findings to be reflected in consultation documents for stage 3 to be released at the end of August. The review’s final report and recommendations will be submitted in December 2019.


Alcohol and Drugs Strategy

The Mental Health Strategy notes the links between problematic alcohol and drugs use and poor mental health. The Scottish Government has also published Rights, Respect and Recovery, a new strategy to improve health by preventing and reducing alcohol and drug use, harm and related deaths. 

Actions in the strategy are based on the vision: Scotland is a country where "we live long, healthy and active lives regardless of where we have come from" and where individuals, families and communities: have the right to health and life - free from the harms of alcohol and drugs; are treated with dignity and respect; are fully supported within communities to find their own type of recovery. 

Suicide Prevention

The Scottish Government's Suicide Prevention Strategy 2013 - 2016 replaced the previous strategy Choose Life and focused on 5 key themes of work in communities and in services: Responding to people in distress; Talking about suicide; Improving the NHS response to suicide; Developing the evidence base; Supporting change and improvement.

A new action plan, Every Life Matters, has been published to continue the work from 2013-2016 and the strong downward trend in suicide rates in Scotland. The plan lists a number of actions which leaders at a national, regional and local level must take to transform society’s response and attitude towards suicide.


Report of the Independent Inquiry into Mental Health Services in Tayside for Government 2020-2021

The Scottish Government recognised the impact of COVID-19 on mental health in its Programme for Government for 2020-2021 and made the following commitments:

  • Publication of a Mental Health Transition and Recovery Plan in autumn 2020, in consultation with a number of different groups such as carers, people in the shielding category and their families and those affected by isolation, poverty and loneliness.
  • Evidence‑based suicide prevention response, in partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group, and a new suicide public awareness campaign in September.
  • Work with COSLA and other partners to develop a longer-term suicide prevention strategy.

The Programme for Government also notes the establishment of the Quality and Safety Board for Mental Health Services in response to the Report of the Independent Inquiry into Mental Health Services in Tayside. The Board will consider a wide range of issues that impact upon the quality and delivery of safe and effective services, including in inpatient and community settings. 

Useful Links

Further reading

Animal magic

A resource celebrating the amazing difference being around and caring for animals makes for many children and adults using a range of care services

Self-Directed Support Library

A selection of resources that explain what SDS is, people’s stories, assessment and support planning tools as well as resources to influence commissioning and procurement practice to make SDS truly mainstream across Scotland

Health and Social Care Standards

The Health and Social Care Standards set out what we should expect when using health, social care or social work services in Scotland

Latest Adult and Health Bulletin

A weekly bulletin produced by our policy team providing an update on the key developments in adult social care and health

Adult and Health Bulletin: 3 - 9 April 2021

Adult and Health Bulletin: 3 - 9 April 2021

Adult and Health Bulletin: 3 - 9 April 2021

Latest Children and Young People Bulletin

A weekly bulletin produced by our policy team providing an update on the key developments concerning children and young people

Children and Young People Bulletin: 3 - 9 April 2021

Children and Young People Bulletin: 3 - 9 April 2021

Children and Young People Bulletin: 3 - 9 April 2021