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Nicola Sturgeon 2021 Scottish election 2021. pledges 39;transformational .

Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish 2021: pledges election … 'transformational

Fri, 16 Apr 2021 08:00:00 +0100

The SNP manifesto promises to increase frontline health spending by 20% if the party wins the election

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Nicola Sturgeon has promised to provide a "transformational" increase in NHS funding if the SNP wins the election.

Speaking as she launched the party's manifesto, Ms Sturgeon said frontline NHS spending would increase by at least 20% over the next five years – which she said would total £2.5bn.

The SNP leader repeated her call for an independence referendum to be held within the next parliamentary term.

But added it would be a "dereliction of duty" to do so during the pandemic.

The manifesto also promises a £10bn investment programme in NHS facilities, and a minimum 25% rise in mental health spending.

And it pledges to abolish NHS dental charges, which Ms Sturgeon said would "ensure that cost is not a barrier to accessing health care".

In a video speech to coincide with its publication, Ms Sturgeon said the coronavirus pandemic had "turned life as we know it upside down".

But she said her party was putting forward "unashamedly optimistic" proposals that would "build a better nation" rather than return things to how they were before.

And she described the manifesto as a "serious programme for serious times".

SCOTLAND ALERTS: Get extra updates on BBC election coverage

Ms Sturgeon said: "If the SNP is re-elected, we will use our experience to undertake a full-scale post-pandemic remobilisation of the NHS.

"Investment in the NHS is already at record levels.

But the pandemic has placed exceptional pressures on our NHS – and that requires an exceptional response.

"Over the next parliament, we will increase frontline NHS spending by at least 20%.

This will deliver an additional £2.5bn for frontline health services – and is almost double what an inflation-only increase would amount to."

SCOTLAND'S ELECTION: THE BASICS

What's happening? On 6 May, people across Scotland will vote to elect 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs).

The party that wins the most seats will form the government.

Find out more here.

What powers do they have? MSPs pass laws on aspects of life in Scotland such as health, education and transport – and have some powers over tax and welfare benefits.

Who can vote? Anyone who lives in Scotland, is registered to vote and aged 16 or over on 6 May is eligible.

You can register to vote online.

The first minister admitted that her government had made mistakes in response to Covid-19, but insisted that it had learned from those errors.

She added: "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."

The party's other key manifesto pledges include:

Ms Sturgeon also said her government would "move towards what is known as a minimum income guarantee".

She said the first step would to establish independently assessed minimum income standards.

Ms Sturgeon added: "We will then identify the extent to which we can use our existing powers over social security, as well as our investments in fair work, childcare and public services to ensure that people meet these income standards.

"We will lay the foundation for the introduction of a Citizens' Basic Income should Scotland choose to become independent and gain the tax and social security powers that are necessary to make that a reality."

The SNP plan to increase NHS spending by at least £2.5bn over the next five years goes beyond the £2bn minimum promised by the Conservatives.

There is no doubt that this would be a significant uplift – almost twice the rate of inflation.

But it is not money for nothing.

The SNP wants the NHS to work harder, to increase treatment activity by 10% compared to pre-pandemic levels to help clear the big backlog of cases caused by covid.

To achieve that and meet the rising costs of healthcare plus a 4% pay rise for many health workers, increased spending on mental health and the abolition of charges for dentistry – the NHS will have no trouble spending more money.

By prioritising the NHS in its plans for recovery from the pandemic, the SNP is aligning itself with the public service that is most popular with and highly valued by Scottish voters.

On a second referendum, Ms Sturgeon said it was "vital" that people who live in Scotland were able to decide the future that they want.

But she stressed that she was not proposing holding a referendum while the country was still grappling with the Covid crisis.

Ms Sturgeon said: "That would be a dereliction of my duty as first minister to dedicate all of my energies to leading us through the crisis.

"But it would also be a dereliction of my duty as first minister – my duty to this and future generations – to let Westminster take Scotland so far in the wrong direction that we no longer have the option to change course.

"So, it is my judgment that the people of Scotland should decide Scotland's future through an independence referendum in the next term of parliament."

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The UK government has repeatedly refused to give its backing to a referendum, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisting that the vote held in 2014 settled the matter for a generation.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the SNP wanted to "put a referendum roadblock in front of Scotland's recovery".

He added: "This is a manifesto to create a new crisis at the earliest opportunity, when we're going to be tackling the health and economic crisis for years to come."

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme that stopping the SNP winning an overall majority in the election was "crucial".

He said this was because it would force the government to focus entirely on the coronavirus recovery rather than on an independence referendum.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the country was still waiting for the SNP to deliver promises they had made in 2007.

Mr Rennie said: "They have a one-track mind for independence that prevents them getting anything else done."

The Scottish Greens, who are the only other major party to have launched their manifesto so far, want to see a referendum held during the next Holyrood term if there is a "simple majority" of MSPs in favour of one.

The party said independence "is now our route back to EU membership" and would give Scotland "the powers and potential to be a leader in the transition to a zero-carbon economy".

Scottish National Party policies explained

At-a-glance: SNP manifesto

A simple guide to the Scottish National Party

Where do the parties stand in the opinion polls?

Who should I vote for?

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Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon

Fri, 16 Apr 2021 08:00:00 +0100

First minister says Scottish election result is 'on a knife-edge' as she unveils 'unashamedly optimistic' manifesto

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First minister says Scottish election result is ‘on a knife-edge’ as she unveils ‘unashamedly optimistic’ manifesto

Last modified on Fri 16 Apr 2021 00.24 EDT

The Scottish National party has committed to a £2.5bn boost to frontline NHS spending, a freeze on income tax throughout the next parliament and the abolition of NHS dentistry charges, in what Nicola Sturgeon described as an “unashamedly optimistic” manifesto while warning that the outcome of next month’s Holyrood election was “on a knife-edge”.

The manifesto also states that the party intends to hold a second independence referendum “within the first half of the five-year [parliamentary] term” – before the end of 2023 – provided the Covid crisis is over by then.

Sturgeon said it would be “a dereliction of my duty as first minister” to hold a referendum while the pandemic was ongoing, but added: “It would also be a dereliction … to let Westminster take Scotland so far in the wrong direction that we no longer have the option to change course.”

Reiterating her certainty that Westminster could not stand in the way of a pro-independence majority at Holyrood, she said: “After this election, if there is a simple, democratic majority in the Scottish parliament for an independence referendum, there will be no democratic, electoral or moral justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else to block the right of people in Scotland to decide their own future.”

There were also pledges on pilot schemes that would examine the feasibility of providing a minimum income guarantee and a four-day working week, but enacting these would be dependent on Holyrood gaining further powers over benefits and employment rights.

Other commitments include:

In addition to a 20% increase in frontline NHS spending, a £10bn programme of investment in NHS facilities, and a minimum 25% rise in mental health spending.

Establishing a national care service, backed by a 25% increase in social care investment.

Doubling the value of the Scottish child payment to £20 a week for every child in a low-income family.

A national digital academy allowing people to gain high school qualifications regardless of age or location.

Bonds of up to £50,000 offered to young people and families to stay in or move to islands to tackle rural population decline.

Asked how she intended to fund the plans, given the freeze on income tax, Sturgeon said all the spending commitments in the document, which by the last year of the parliament would amount to an additional £6bn, fell within the middle scenario of financial forecasts by the independent Scottish Fiscal Commission assessing growth in tax revenues and block grants.

Referencing a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies published on Wednesday, which described Scotland’s devolved tax and benefit powers as the most progressive in the UK, Sturgeon said that even with the tax freeze, “people with the broadest shoulders already pay more” and that “progressive principle is front and centre”.

But in its own analysis of the manifesto, the Institute said that free dentistry was likely to benefit the better off, while warning paying for the pledges “in what will likely be a tight fiscal environment … would require tricky trade-offs, and potentially either tax rises, or cuts to at least some other areas of public spending”.

It added that the stated aim of not increasing income tax alongside plans to cut business rates “could make this an especially difficult circle to square”.

The manifesto also says pilot work will begin on proposals that ultimately exceed the powers of the Holyrood parliament, including the provision of a minimum income guarantee for all, building on exploratory work undertaken in the last parliament on a citizens’ basic income.

There are also plans to establish a £10m fund to allow companies to pilot the transition to a four-day working week, while an SNP government would continue to call for the devolution of employment law.

A number of new policies are based on learning from New Zealand, such as offering women who have a miscarriage or stillbirth and their partners three days of paid bereavement leave, and a school leavers’ toolkit to equip young people with practical skills like budgeting and financial literacy.

On transgender rights, reform of which proved hugely controversial in the last term, resulting in two consultations and no legislative progress, the manifesto states: “We remain committed to making necessary changes to the Gender Recognition Act.”

Sturgeon said she still believed Scotland should aspire to best international practice – which has been established as the process of self-identification, which some women’s groups have raised concerns about – and said she was not proposing a third full-scale consultation.

“But given how polarised this debate has become, in a way that has been harmful particularly to trans people, then I think some period of discussion, of transparency with women, with human rights and equality groups, to look at exactly what do we need to do to reform this legislation would be sensible.”

Pressing home her “both votes SNP” message, after the advent of Alex Salmond’s Alba party raised questions about whether voting for an alternative on the regional list might increase the number of pro-independence MSPs returned, Sturgeon said: “The Holyrood voting system means Scottish parliament election results are always on a knife-edge.

That’s hardwired into the system.

So every vote really does matter.”

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– April 16, 2021
Nicola Sturgeon 2021 Scottish election 2021. pledges 39;transformational .