Holyrood 2016: Who should I vote for?

Voters go to the polls on May 5th. Picture: Contributed

Voters go to the polls on May 5th. Picture: Contributed

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STILL undecided on who to vote for in the Holyrood elections?

With further devolved powers coming to the Scottish Parliament - including new tax powers as of 2017 - and the impending EU referendum, the stakes in this election have never been higher for the parties at Holyrood.

The SNP manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. Picture: Hemedia

The SNP manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. Picture: Hemedia

It is the first Scottish Parliament election whereby party leaders will have the opportunity to put forward tax-raising proposals to fund their manifesto pledges, making this election a particularly significant milestone in Scotland’s history.

Here is a round up of the some of the key points of each of the main parties’ manifestos:

SNP

• A commitment to increasing the NHS budget by £500 million above inflation, a total of almost £2 billion by the end of the next parliament.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale on the campaign trail in Edinburgh. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale on the campaign trail in Edinburgh. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

• A £100 million plan to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in Scotland.

• The establishment of five new elective treatment centres in Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee, Livingston and Edinburgh.

• A ten-year plan and £150 million investment to improve mental health services.

• A commitment to extending the Scottish Attainment Fund to deliver £750 million investment for education.

Copies of the Scottish Conservative manifesto. Picture: John Devlin

Copies of the Scottish Conservative manifesto. Picture: John Devlin

• A commitment to almost double the amount of free childcare hours for vulnerable two-year-olds and all three and four year olds from 16 to 30 hours by 2021.

• Plans to deliver 30,000 new Modern Apprenticeships a year by 2020.

• No plans to increase top rate of tax to £50,000 in line with the UK government.

• Freezing the basic rate of income tax for the duration of the next parliament and increasing the tax free allowance to £12,750 by 2021/22.

Picture: Ian Georgeson

Picture: Ian Georgeson

• The introduction of a Social Security Bill and creation of a new Social Security Agency.

• On independence, the SNP’s manifesto commits to holding a second independence referendum if there is ‘clear and sustained evidence’ that the majority of Scots favour it, or ‘significant and material’ change in circumstances occurs such as Scotland exiting the EU against its will.

>>> READ THE SNP’S MANIFESTO IN FULL

SCOTTISH LABOUR:

•In order to protect the NHS and education budgets, Labour have advocated using Holyrood’s new tax powers to raise the basic and higher rates of income tax by 1p to raise £1.2 billion. Those earning £20,000 or less will pay the same as they are now.

• Raising the tax rate for those earning £150,000 or more from 45p to 50p.

Greens Co-convenor Patrick Harvie with MSP Candidate Zara Kitson. Picture: John Devlin

Greens Co-convenor Patrick Harvie with MSP Candidate Zara Kitson. Picture: John Devlin

• The replacement of the council tax with a property tax leaving 80 per cent of households better off, according to the party.

• Giving nursery and primary head teachers direct control over resources through a Fair Start Fund.

• A commitment to increase provision of breakfast clubs and use proceeds of the ‘sugar tax’ to invest in after-school sport.

• A pledge to guarantee an appointment at a GP surgery within 48 hours as well as the extension of the minor ailments service to community pharmacies.

• Kezia Dugdale also promised the creation of four new major trauma centres in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee.

• Scottish Labour pledge the immediate halting of the privatisation of Calmac and advocate bringing ScotRail into public ownership.

• The introduction of the Warm Homes Act to tackle fuel poverty.

• A promise to build 60,000 new affordable homes, 45,000 of which would be for rent by councils and housing associations.

• Following a vote by conference delegates, the Scottish Labour will oppose the renewal of Trident while introducing a Defence Diversification Agency to help retain existing jobs at Faslane.

• Scottish Labour advocate an all-out ban on fracking in Scotland.

>>> READ THE SCOTTISH LABOUR MANIFESTO IN FULL

SCOTTISH CONSERVATIVES:

• Opposition to a second independence referendum with the promise to renew ‘a positive drive to promote the benefits of the union.’

• The maintenance of the current levels of tax proposed at Westminster so as to keep Scotland competitive with the rest of the UK.

• A pledge to freeze business rates to boost jobs and stimulate the Scottish economy.

• Graduates will be asked to repay £1,500 for each year of their degree once they earn over £20,000 or more to raise £100 million. Part time, postgraduate, disabled and low income students would be exempt.

• A pledge to invest an additional £300 million in mental health services.

• Gradual reintroduction of prescription charges (with exemptions for long-term conditions, children, pensioners, the disabled and pregnant women) to raise £65 million to improve access to new treatments and drugs as well as investing in nurses, GPs and health visitors.

• Increasing the NHS budget each year of the parliament either above inflation, by 2 per cent or the Barnett consequentials, whichever is higher.

• £1 billion funding to improve energy efficiency in Scottish homes to a ‘C’ rating or better to alleviate fuel poverty.

• The construction of 100,000 new homes by 2021, half of which would be affordable housing.

• Advocating more Community Payback Orders as an alternative to prison sentences. Life sentences should also mean life without the right to parole.

• A focus on rail infrastructure, including high speed rail links, a suburban Edinburgh South railway and restoration of the Reston and East Linton stations on the east coast mainline.

>>> READ THE SCOTTISH CONSERVATIVE MANIFESTO IN FULL

SCOTTISH LIBERAL DEMOCRATS:

• The Lib Dems propose levying ‘a penny for education’, using Holyrood’s new tax powers to increase all tax bands by 1p to raise £500 million each year for education.

• Extend free nursery provision to all two-year-olds and introduce a ‘pupil premium’ to be given to schools to drive down the attainment gap.

• Advocating a change in the law to put mental health on an equal footing with physical health, including making sure each GP surgery has a mental health professional on staff.

• A pledge to train, recruit and retain more GPs to plug the shortfall in family practitioners by 2020.

• The Lib Dems back giving councils the power to set business rates and implement a ‘fairer system of local taxation’ to replacement of council tax.

• Local communities should have the power to establish burgh councils to better serve their local area.

• Re-introduction of the Air Discount Scheme for business travel from Scotland’s islands as well as halving ferry fares between the northern islands and the mainland.

• Increasing the number of affordable homes in Scotland by 50,000 by the end of the next parliament session. 40,000 of these would be for rent rather than purchase.

• A pledge to retain housing benefit for those aged 18-25 and increase Carers’ benefit to the same rate as jobseekers’ allowance.

• The Lib Dems pledge to repeal the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act and stop the creation of the Scottish Government’s ID database.

• Ban fracking and open-cast coal mining as well as establishing new national parks.

>>> READ THE SCOTTISH LIBERAL DEMOCRATS’ MANIFESTO IN FULL

SCOTTISH GREEN PARTY:

• Creation of 200,000 jobs through supporting sustainable industries, such as renewable energy generation, design and research.

• The Greens are advocating increasing the income tax band for those earning more than £150,000 to 60p.

• The basic rate of income tax (currently 20 per cent) would be split in two to 18 per cent and 22 per cent depending on your income.

• Pledge to introduce the Living Wage Plus, raising the basic rate of pay for social carers and increase the Carer’s Allowance.

• Pledge to scrap council tax and replace with the Residential Property Tax which would be set at 1 per cent the value of your property with a tax-free allowance of £10,000.

• Permanent ban on fracking and unconventional fossil fuel extraction methods.

• The party will support socially-owned renewable energy companies.

• Will campaign for independence in the event of a second referendum. In the meantime, the party advocates a written constitution produced by the Scottish people and further powers at Holyrood.

>>> READ THE SCOTTISH GREENS’ MANIFESTO IN FULL

UKIP SCOTLAND

• Pledge to reduce business rates and cut EU regulations that ‘stifle’ business growth in Scotland.

• Maintain the same levels of taxation as the rest of the UK while also proposing to add intermediate levels of tax, e.g. a 30 per cent rate for those earning between £45,300 and £55,000.

• Cut stamp duty and planning regulations on brown field sites to increase construction of housing.

• Introduce grammar and technical schools to the compliment universities, apprenticeships, further education colleges and vocational training.

• Reducing average class sizes in Primary 1, 2 and 3 years to 20 children per class, and ensuring the cap on the biggest class size allowable of 25 is met

• UKIP advocate the repeal of the Named Persons scheme which will be rolled out across Scotland in August.

• Restoring the drink driving limit back to 80mg per 100ml of blood - the same as the rest of the UK.

• Support research into GM foods, and allow a free vote in parliament on commercial cultivation

>>> READ THE UKIP MANIFESTO IN FULL