Nicola Sturgeon today (Thursday) urged the people of Scotland to give both votes to the SNP on May 6th to deliver a sustainable, job-centred recovery from COVID – as she published the SNP’s “transformational” manifesto for government.
Reflecting on the lessons that she has learned leading Scotland through the global pandemic, Ms Sturgeon said that the combination of commitment and experience the SNP offered was valuable in the current times.
With health and social care services having been on the front line of the pandemic, she said an SNP Government would deliver a 20% increase in frontline NHS spending worth £2.5bn, and would establish a National Care Service, backed by a 25% increase in social care investment.
This will include significant investment in the staff themselves – NHS staff have been offered an average 4% pay increase, and the new National Care Service, backed by £800m, would enable the government to offer a National Living Wage for care staff.
To invest in the next generation, an SNP Government would also invest £1bn over the next parliament to close the school attainment gap, and recruit 3500 additional teachers and classroom assistants – as well as providing free school breakfast and lunches to every primary school pupil, year-round, and a device for every child in Scotland to get online.
It will also build a wraparound childcare system, to help support working parents, with the least well-off families paying nothing.
Having introduced the Scottish Child Payment – described as a ‘game-changer’ in the battle against child poverty – a re-elected SNP Government will roll out payments to all school-age children in receipt of free school meals, and will double the payment to £20 a week over the life of the parliament.
At the heart of the SNP’s recovery plans are an economic transformation which would have fair work and the climate emergency at its heart.
This would include an investment of £500m to support new jobs and resell people for the jobs of the future – as well as funding the Young Person’s Guarantee of a university, college, apprenticeship, training place of job for every young person who wants it.
Over £33bn will be invested over the next 5 years in the National Infrastructure Mission, directly supporting 45,000 jobs.
And an SNP Government will deliver a further 100,000 homes by 2032 – with investment of £3.5bn over this parliament, which would support 14,000 jobs a year.
There will also be a commitment to decarbonise the heating of 1 million homes by 2030.
The SNP will also deliver a green transport revolution by providing free bikes to all school-age children who can’t afford them, remove the majority of fossil fuel buses from public transport by 2023, ramp up investment in Active Travel, and bring Scotrail into public ownership with the aim of decarbonising the rail network by 2035.
The SNP will commit to a Just Transition, including the appointment of a Minister for a Just Transition to oversee this work.
Ms Sturgeon confirmed that an SNP Government would freeze income tax rates and bands, and increase thresholds by a maximum of inflation.
And she pledged to give the people of Scotland the opportunity to have their say over their future in an independence referendum, when the covid crisis has passed – to deliver the powers the parliament needs to drive the long-term recovery.
Speaking as she launched the manifesto, Nicola Sturgeon said:
“This past year has been the most difficult and heart-breaking most of us will ever remember.
“As First Minister I have dedicated all of my energy to one over-riding task: keeping people in Scotland as safe possible.
“Tackling the pandemic has been my number one duty – and for as long as this crisis is ongoing it will remain so.
“A year ago, we had to act fast without the knowledge we have now about this virus – and without the benefit of the hindsight we have today.
“I know we didn’t get every decision right, but we have done our level best – and we have learned from experience.
“It is that combination of commitment and experience that I believe is so vital for these times.
“In this manifesto the SNP is setting out a serious programme for serious times.
“It is practical but unashamedly optimistic – and it is transformational in its ambition.
“Anyone, and any party, aspiring to govern in these times must rise to the occasion.
“They must capture a sense of possibility and build hope for a better country and a better world.
“A Scotland founded on compassion and love, where we look out for one another in a spirit of solidarity, where everyone is valued equally, in which we celebrate our rich diversity and where we welcome those who choose to make our country their home.
“A nation of fulfilling jobs, financial security, happy homes and healthy families.
“A nation optimistic about the future.”
The First Minister also set out plans to give the people of Scotland the right to choose a better future with independence – once the current crisis has passed – in order to equip the parliament with powers to drive the long-term recovery.
“Westminster are using their powers to take Scotland in the wrong direction, and they are pressing the accelerator.
“This will make recovery more difficult as they hurtle towards a deeply damaging destination that few people in Scotland want.
“The people of Scotland should decide Scotland’s future through an independence referendum in the next term of Parliament.
“It should take place only when the crisis has passed, but in time then to equip our Parliament with the full powers it needs to drive our long-term recovery.
“I believe passionately that with the powers of independence we can do so much more for Scotland.
“I look around Europe and I see independent countries, of similar size to us, that are among the wealthiest, fairest and happiest in the world.
“If Denmark and Norway and Ireland can do it, then with all our resources and talent, why not Scotland?
“The experienced leadership needed for these serious times and all of the opportunities I have set out today will come about only if there is an SNP government – and that means using both votes for the SNP.
“On May 6 for a better Scotland – for this and for generations yet to come – vote SNP.”