Nicola Sturgeon promises increased investment in health, education and childcare if re-elected
Nicola Sturgeon promised this morning that a re-elected SNP government would ‘open the doors of opportunity’ to young people, launching a manifesto heavily focused on education, health and childcare.
‘Our promise in this election is not simply to maintain our record,’ the first minister told 1,400 activists. ‘It is to build on it. It is not business as usual. It is transformation.’
The manifestos most ambitious promises include:
- Additional investment in the Scottish NHS of almost two billion pounds, focused on social, primary and community care
- Investment to double early childhood care and education to 30 hours for all three and four year-olds, and vulnerable two year-olds
- Investment of an additional £750 million — primarily to schools themselves — to close the gap in educational attainment.
- A commitment to lift 100,000 small businesses out of business rates to ensure Scottish productivity.
Sturgeon also promised to introduce a ‘universal baby box’, whereby every newborn receives a box with clothes, toys, nappies and a mattress, allowing the box to be turned into a cot.
‘This simple but powerful idea originated in Finland,’ Sturgeon said. ‘It provides practical help for parents and has reduced infant mortality and improved child health. But the baby box also symbolises the fair and equal start that we want for all children.’
Speaking on the possibility of a second independence referendum during the next parliament, Sturgeon reiterated that the SNP would have to ‘earn the right to propose it’ and that she would not do so unless ‘there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people’.
Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, described the document as an ‘SNP manifesto for cuts’.
‘There are tax cuts for wealthy people buying airline tickets, tax cuts for higher earners by raising the threshold and the SNP have dropped their promise to bring back the 50p top rate of tax for those earning over £150,000.’
Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, called it ‘a recipe for uncertainty’.
With the SNP currently expected to win over 50 per cent of seats in the Scottish parliament, these criticisms are unlikely to cause much damage. However, Sturgeon was insistent that the election should not be considered a ‘battle for second place or a game of chance with the electoral system’, saying:
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‘My message to the people of Scotland is clear. I take nothing for granted – and neither should you. If you want to see the SNP back in government on May sixth, vote SNP with both votes. If you want me to be your First Minister, with a clear mandate to lead Scotland forward, vote SNP with both votes.’