SNP manifesto: what are Nicola Sturgeon's key promises ahead of the Scottish Parliament election?
The First Minister has launched her party’s 2021 manifesto three weeks before Scotland’s May election
With only three weeks left until Scots take to the polls, the SNP has launched its manifesto.
Before Nicola Sturgeon’s speech on Thursday (15 April) only the Scottish Greens had published their pledges ahead of the 6 May election.
It comes as the second leaders’ debate during the race to Holyrood was aired on STV this week.
The SNP’s 76-page manifesto has a focus on a sustainable, job-centred recovery from the Covid crisis, with a pledge to “build a better nation” if the party wins the election.
Then, of course, is the aim to hold a second independence referendum.
We take a look at the main promises.
What are the key SNP manifesto promises?
One of the main manifesto promises is to increase NHS frontline spending by over £2.5 billion over the course of the next parliament.
And the manifesto vows to invest £10 billion over the next 10 years to “replace and refurbish health facilities”.
As part of this, the party will offer a 4 per cent pay increase on average to health workers.
The SNP has also promised to abolish NHS dentistry charges, while free prescription services will be maintained.
There is a focus on mental health services, and the party has said it will increase the “direct investment” into these services by at least 25 per cent.
In a move similar to New Zealand’s, where families who suffer miscarriage or stillbirth are given three days of paid leave, the SNP wants to deliver a similar policy within the public sector.
Significantly, the party also wants to create a National Care Service, following the impact of coronavirus on the country’s adult care homes.
The policy, intended to improve standards on national level, will be backed by an increased investment in social care by 25 percent.
As expected, the manifesto focuses on a second Scottish independence referendum.
The party wants to hold another vote “once the Covid crisis has passed but in good time to decide that we want to equip our Parliament with the powers it needs to drive our long-term economic recovery from Covid”.
Ms Sturgeon has previously said she wants a new vote by the end of 2023.
Income tax rates and brands will be frozen, the SNP has vowed, while band threshold increases will be by a maximum of inflation.
Council tax will also be abolished for those under the age of 22. The party also wants to see further council tax reforms, and will ask a Citizens’ Assembly to consider the way forward.
The party has promised free school lunches and breakfasts for all primary school pupils in the country, year round.
And every school pupil would receive a device to use the internet under the pledges.
At least 3,500 extra teachers and classroom assistants will be recruited, the manifesto vows, while £1 billion will be invested to close the school attainment gap between the richest and poorest children.
A “national digital academy”, similar to the Open University”, will be set up for Scots to study for Highers online.
Additionally, a “wraparound childcare system” is promised, to provide care before and after school all year round.
The SNP wants to make bonds of up to £50,000 available to young people and families to stay on, or move to, Scottish island communities which are threatened by depopulation.
Ms Sturgeon said her party will establish a £10 million fund to allow companies to “pilot and explore” the implementation of a four day working week.
The SNP has also called for the devolution of employment law.
Poverty and homelessness
The SNP has pledged to double the £10 Scottish Child Payment to £20 per eligible child per week.
The manifesto also vows to “begin work” to deliver a Minimum Income Guarantee.
And there is a focus on homelessness, with the party promising to invest a further £50 million over the next parliament to “end homelessness and rough sleeping”.
Meanwhile, the SNP vows that free bus travel will be extended to all under-22s.
And by 2026, the party wants 10 per cent of the transport capital budget to be spent on travel schemes encouraging walking and cycling as part of a “green transport revolution”.
The majority of fossil fuel buses will be removed from public transport by 2023, while a “greener, more affordable railway” will be created, the manifesto promises.
Free bikes will also be offered to school children who can’t afford one.
To further tackle climate change, the party has promised to “decarbonise” the heating of 1 million homes in Scotland by 2030.
A sum of £100 million is also pledged for a Green Jobs Fund.
The SNP wants the country to have transitioned to net zero emissions by 2045.