Page last updated at 15:37 GMT, Sunday, 18 October 2009 16:37 UK

SNP: Right to buy 'had its day'

Nicola Sturgeon
Ms Sturgeon told the conference of concerns over swine flu cases

The right to buy for all new council and social housing tenants will be abolished in Scotland in a bid to see off a shortage of rented housing.

Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the SNP conference the policy had "had its day".

The Scottish government has already said it would abolish the right to buy for new build social housing.

Ms Sturgeon also urged vulnerable people to take the swine flu vaccine when it becomes available on Wednesday.

She told delegates in Inverness that 12,500 people in Scotland contracted the virus last week - and there was a 50% rise in the number of people who died from it.

Flu vaccine

Ms Sturgeon said the SNP supported home ownership - but said there was a responsibility to provide houses for people who could not afford to buy.

She said: "We're building record numbers of houses, but our ambition to substantially increase the supply of homes for rent will be frustrated if we sell them off under the right to buy.

"That is why I believe that the right to buy has had its day."

She said the reforms to right to buy, first introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, would safeguard up to 18,000 houses, providing rented homes for those who most needed them.

On swine flu, Ms Sturgeon, also Scotland's health secretary, went on to say that, by the end of the year, the vaccine would be offered to 1.3 million people in Scotland, including frontline health staff and those most at risk of complications.

Make no mistake - swine flu can kill and this vaccine will save lives
Nicola Sturgeon

Details of the strategy came after a pregnant 17-year-old from the Borders became the 15th person in Scotland to die from swine flu.

Ms Sturgeon paid tribute to the NHS for its efforts in tackling the spread of swine flu, while warning it may bring even greater challenges.

"We don't know for sure what will happen over the winter," she said, adding: "We do know that, for the overwhelming majority of people, swine flu is mild - but we can't be complacent."

The SNP deputy leader went on: "I know that some people worry about vaccines. I know that there are those who think vaccination is not necessary.

"But make no mistake - swine flu can kill and this vaccine will save lives."

SNP conference
The SNP used the conference to target the general election

Sticking with the NHS, Ms Sturgeon said the service last year made efficiency savings of almost £300m - exceeding its £215m target - and pledged to put "every penny" into frontline care.

And she announced the regional treatment centre at Stracathro, in Angus, set up by the previous Labour/Lib Dem Scottish government with a private operator in 2006, would be funded with £5m a year and run in the NHS.

"Our government," said Ms Sturgeon, "will invest taxpayers' money always to build up NHS services - not to build up the private health sector.

"I am proud that this government - our government - has stopped in its tracks that Labour privatisation of the NHS."

Making the case for independence, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP in government was building a positive future for Scotland, unlike the UK political parties.

The real question is who will speak up for Scotland and make our voice heard
Nicola Sturgeon

"Labour has made an almighty mess of the public finances and they now want ordinary folk to pay the price for their failure - and the Tories are just the same," she argued.

"Labour and the Tories - the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of the politics of failure - vying with each other over how much they will cut public services."

Ms Sturgeon said the UK government's efficiency savings programme would be responsible for cutting £500m off the Scottish budget, adding: "That's Labour's legacy to Scotland and they should hang their heads in shame."

The deputy first minister said the real question for Scotland in the forthcoming general election was not the choice between Labour and Tory.

"The real question is who will speak up for Scotland and make our voice heard," she told the conference.

"To that question, there is, always has been and always will be only one answer - the SNP.

"We owe allegiance only to Scotland and to the best interests of the Scottish people."

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