Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Saturday, 31 October 2009

25 January 2001: Free care for the elderly

Scottish Parliament

A hugely significant piece of legislation was passed by MSPs, when Parliament unanimously voted in favour of plans to provide free personal care for the elderly.

The changes meant all personal charges for people cared for in their own homes were abolished, ensuring everyone who needed nursing care received it free of charge.

The executive initially refused to adopt the proposals in full. However, ministers performed a u-turn in January 2001 before the crucial vote.

Labour's partners in the coalition, the Liberal Democrats, had been expected to join the Scottish National Party and the Conservatives in voting for a motion calling for the full implementation of Sir Stewart Sutherland's recommendations.

In September that year Henry McLeish, Donald Dewar's successor as first minister, brought forward proposals to do just that.

The legislation was finally passed by the Scottish Parliament on 6 February 2002.

The vote was widely welcomed, with Help the Aged describing it as the end of a "long and hard fought campaign" to remove the financial burden on pensioners in Scotland.

A review in 2008, carried out by Lord Sutherland, was ordered amid complaints that councils were not implementing the policy correctly.

More than 50,000 older people now benefit from free personal care.

The review found the policy, which costs about £280m a year to run, was sound - but called for increased funding, greater consistency and better planning.

Scottish ministers said the extra annual £40m funding package would be given to local authorities from 2009/10.

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