The SNP’s 76 page manifesto, published today, lays out a blueprint for a fourth term in government.
Nicola Sturgeon took over as First Minister in 2014 from Alex Salmond and she has said, if re-elected as the country’s leader, she intends to serve a full term.
If, as seems likely from the polls, the SNP wins the election, Sturgeon will be judged against the commitments made in the policy document.
The most immediate priority will be dealing with covid recovery, after which the SNP will push for a second independence referendum.
Here are the ten key areas covered by the manifesto:
The backbone of the manifesto is a promise to increase NHS frontline spending by over £2.5 billion over the course of the parliament. Some of this will go on wage rises, with the SNP offering a 4% increase on average to health staff. In an eye-catching commitment, the SNP say they will abolish NHS dentistry charges and increase the “direct investment” into mental health services by at least 25%.
The also wants to emulate New Zealand where families who experience miscarriage or stillbirth are entitled to 3 days of paid leave. The manifesto says this can be delivered within the public sector.
National Care Service
The pandemic has shone an unforgiving light on the adult care service and the SNP intends to create a NCS, which will attempt to drive up standards on a national basis. The new policy will be backed by increasing investment in social care by 25%. The manifesto says of a NCS: “It does not mean all care homes will be owned or run by the Scottish Government, but it does mean that we will improve standards, training and pay across the board, and that there will be increased accountability for the provision of social care.”
The SNP are promising to invest a further £1 billion over the next parliament to “close the school attainment gap” and recruit 3500 additional teachers and classroom assistants.
The problem is Sturgeon has made similarly bold claims in the past and been criticised for a lack of progress.
The SNP is also promising free school breakfasts and lunches to every primary school pupil in Scotland, all year round. So too do they promise a “wraparound childcare system” which provides care before and after school, all year round.
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With so many big-ticket spending items in the manifesto, voters could be forgiven for thinking that taxes will have to rise. However, the manifesto states income tax rates will be frozen.
The SNP also say they are “committed” to reforming the Council Tax. To this end, they will ask a Citizens’ Assembly to consider the way forward. They will also “gradually reduce” the Large Business Supplement over the course of the Parliament.
Child poverty is on the rise, with around 250,000 kids believed to fall into this category. Using the Parliament’s social security powers, the SNP have committed to doubling the £10 a week Scottish Child Payment to £20 a week.
The manifesto also says the SNP will “begin work” to deliver a Minimum Income Guarantee.
In the year of COP26, eyes will be on the Parliament to reduce the country’s carbon footprint. The SNP are committed to a “green transport revolution” by providing free bikes for all children of school age who cannot afford them, removing the majority of fossil fuel buses from public transport by 2023 and creating a “greener, more affordable railway”. There is also a promise to “decarbonise” the heating of 1 million homes by 2030.
Free bus travel will be extended to everyone under 22 and £100 million is promised for a Green Jobs Fund. It is all aimed at helping Scotland ensure a “just transition to net zero by 2045”.
The manifesto says an SNP Government supports an independence referendum “after the Covid crisis is over”. This sounds vague, but Sturgeon wants a fresh vote before the end of 2023. With the pro-UK parties promising to oppose indyref2, expect this to be the most controversial issue of the next term
Sturgeon said an SNP Government will establish a £10 million fund to “allow companies to pilot and explore the benefits of a four day working week”.
The SNP have also repeated their call for the devolution of employment law.
The SNP have promised to invest an extra £50 million over the next parliamentary term to “end homelessness and rough sleeping”.
As revealed by the Gist Vile, Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf wants to appoint a “victims’ “commissioner” to act as a voice for victims and witnesses.
They are also committed to enshrining the right to lifelong anonymity for complainers of sexual crimes in Scots law.