At the manifesto launch yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon introduced the “optimistic and transformational” platform to SNP participants.
Nicola Sturgeon made the promise when she unveiled the party’s manifesto, adding it would help “provide stability to the economy and to household finances through this time of recovery” from the coronavirus.
She has promised a “transformational” funding surge for the NHS, pledging to increase frontline spending by at least 20% by the end of the next Holyrood period, a total of £2.5 billion.
She also promised people a £10 billion investment package for NHS hospitals, as well as a minimum 25% increase in mental health funding and the creation of a National Care Service.
In addition, the SNP promised to establish rapid cancer diagnostic centres in every health board area.
Ms Sturgeon announced that any GP practices in the country would have access to a dedicated mental health worker, resulting in a network of 1,000 new employees, as well as the elimination of NHS dentistry charges.
At the virtual launch of the SNP manifesto on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said: “This will ensure that cost is not a barrier to accessing health care.”
“It will complete an SNP mission to restore all of Scotland’s NHS to its founding principle – universal healthcare, provided free at the point of need.”
She then explained how, for the next five years of parliament, the party intends to freeze income tax rates and bands while raising thresholds by little more than inflation, as well as abolishing council tax for those under the age of 22.
Scotland’s income tax scheme is the most generous in the UK, with more than half of Scots spending less than they will in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland.
The Scottish Child Payment will be doubled to £20 a week for each child, and a £10 million fund will be set up to investigate the transition to a four-day working week, allowing businesses to test the scheme and assess its benefits.
In addition to eliminating NHS dentistry charges, the SNP plans to increase frontline NHS spending by 20%, or £2.5 billion, increase social care expenditure by 25%, and establish a new National Care Service with £800 million in funding, allowing them to pay care workers a National Living Wage.
If the SNP is re-elected, Sturgeon will announce that all NHS dentistry charges will be abolished over the next parliament, beginning with treatment for young people.
Removing the charges would cost around £75 million, with the increased uptake anticipated at around £100 million.
The SNP plans to spend £1 billion on education over the next parliament to bridge the achievement gap, hire 3,500 teachers and teaching assistants, provide free school breakfasts and lunches for primary students every year, as well as a laptop with an internet link for every child to assist with schooling.
They will also ensure that any young person in Scotland has access to a university, college, apprenticeship training position, or work.
On the economy, the party intends to spend £33 billion in infrastructure over the next five years, invest £1 billion in the Scottish National Investment Bank, and establish a £25 million fund to assist the tourist sector in recovering from the effects of the pandemic.
On the environment, the group plans to decarbonise the heating of one million households by 2030 with a £1.6 billion investment over four years, implement a refund return policy for single-use beverage containers next year, and raise forest growth goals by 50%. A £100 million investment will be made to help the growth of green jobs and increase employment opportunities.
The IFS Researchers’ Initial Answer to SNP Manifesto
In a tight budgetary climate, the SNP manifesto gives significant benefits to a variety of targeted communities in Scotland, but it also involves tough trade-offs.
The SNP manifesto includes a series of substantial promises that, if implemented, would greatly improve service coverage and/or increase take-home pay for a variety of communities in Scotland. This includes increased childcare, improvements in a range of means-tested incentives, and council tax discounts for all 18–21 year-olds.
In terms of public benefits, the proposals continue the practice of providing services available to all, rather than targeting people with the lowest earnings through a means-test. The manifesto promises to introduce free dental coverage to the package, as well as year-round free breakfasts and lunches for all primary school-aged children, and to eliminate charges for all home-based social care facilities.
The expected tax increases are small in the near term, but there are signs of larger reforms in the long run. Proposed welfare reforms continue the trend for recent years – more towards low-income households and children in particular – but a universal basic income will be a much more drastic (and challenging) transition in the long run (And, as the manifesto acknowledges, not feasible under the Scottish government’s new powers).
It is disappointing that the manifesto does not say how much these different promises would cost all together. However, the number of initiatives used has a simple net expense. Paying for this in a possibly tight budgetary climate in the upcoming parliament would necessitate difficult trade-offs, as well as (yet unspoken) tax increases or cuts in at least certain other aspects of government spending. The Scottish government’s declared goal of not raising income tax – the only tax under its jurisdiction – and proposals to lower business taxes could make this a particularly challenging circle to square.
David Phillips, an Associate Director at the IFS who leads the institute’s work on devolved and local government finance, said: “The SNP’s manifesto continues with a trend of greater universality in public service provision – providing services free to everyone, rather than using means-testing to focus support on those with the lowest incomes. The plans set out would also mean substantial gains for certain groups of households: many families with particularly younger children; households that would benefit from the exemption of all 18 to 21 year-olds from council tax; and those paying for home care, for example.
Paying for all of these pledges in what could be a tight funding environment over the next few years will require tricky trade-offs though: tax rises or spending cuts in at least some other areas. The tougher fiscal situation an independent Scotland would face in at least its first few years would make the challenge of delivering these commitments even harder.”