SNP manifesto pledges £500m NHS spending increase

20 Apr 16

Health service spending in Scotland will be increased by £500m in real terms during the lifetime of the next Scottish Parliament if the Scottish National Party is returned to power on 5 May, first minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged today.

Launching the SNP manifesto before a 1,400-strong audience at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Sturgeon said the extra health spending was part of a £1.2bn benefit to Scotland’s public finances as a result of not implementing George Osborne’s increase in the threshold for the higher rate of income tax when Scotland gains control of income tax next year.

Other key spending pledges in the 72-page manifesto include a planned extra £750m for education, mostly dispensed by head teachers under a new funding formula for schools, and a pledge to focused on closing the attainment gap between children from different social backgrounds.

The government would also introduce a Finnish-style “baby box” for every child born in Scotland, aimed at giving every newborn an equal start in life, while also doubling of free childcare provision by the end of the next parliament.

Sturgeon also pledged legislation to ensure 50-50 gender balance on public boards, as well as measures to ensure that firms who operate blacklisting or fail to pay they share of tax do not benefit from public procurement.

An SNP government, which is the outcome forecast by opinion polls, would also cut Air Passenger Duty by 50% and maintain free medical prescriptions and higher education tuition, Sturgeon stated.

The devolved social security system would reject “the language of shirkers and scroungers” and operates through a new Scottish agency pledged to dignity and fairness, she added, with an end to means-testing of disability benefits, abolition of the so-called “bedroom tax” and restored housing support entitlements for 18-21 year olds.

The manifesto does not promise a second independence referendum within the next Holyrood parliament, though Sturgeon admitted: “I would like that very much”.

Instead, she reiterated plans for a major SNP push from this summer to ensure majority support for independence should there be “clear and sustained evidence” that most Scots wanted another referendum. In those circumstances, she said, no politician would have the right to stand in the way of the vote taking place.

  • Keith Aitken
    Keith Aitken

    covers Scottish affairs for Public Finance from Edinburgh. He was formerly economics editor and chief leader writer on The Scotsman and now has a busy freelance career as a writer, broadcaster and event chair.

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