SNP call for £118bn anti-austerity boost

30 May 17

A £118 billion boost to public spending as a foil to Conservative austerity is the centrepiece of the Scottish National Party’s election manifesto, launched by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Perth today.

The SNP proposals focus relentlessly on anti-austerity measures, in defiance of determined attempts by unionist opponents to corner them over plans for a second independence referendum. 

Pressed on that issue, Sturgeon said that an SNP win in Scotland next week would reinforce the case for a referendum in the light of the Brexit negotiations.

Theresa May has insisted that now is not they time for a second independence vote, despite the Holyrood parliament demanding one.

Sturgeon has previously argued for it to take place once the UK’s exit terms are known, though the manifesto refers rather more vaguely to it taking place “at the end of the Brexit process”.

Instead, it sets out a package of measures that the SNP would advocate and support in opposition to the Conservatives’ UK austerity agenda. They include a rise from 45 to 50p in the top rate of income tax, an increase in the National Minimum Wage to £10 an hour, an end to the benefits freeze and in particular the two-child cap on family benefits; and an end to the public sector pay freeze.

“These cuts strike at the very heart of how we see ourselves as a nation and our shared ambition for the future,” Sturgeon said. “They are unfair and they are designed to divide.”

The SNP also wants to boost health spending across the UK, pointing out that any squeeze south of the border impacts on the Scottish NHS through Barnett Formula consequentials.  Her plans would add another £1bn to the health budget in Scotland.

Sturgeon promised to defend the so-called “triple lock” on pensions, to protect the winter fuel allowance and to promote better pension rights for women.  She promised that her party would oppose any increase in tax or National Insurance for lower-paid earners.

The SNP currently holds an unprecedented 56 out of 59 Scottish seats in the Commons, and is privately reconciled to the likelihood of losing some of them on 8 June.

Sturgeon said that if the SNP held on to a majority of Scottish seats that would make it “democratically unsustainable” for a Conservative government at Westminster to block Scottish demands for a referendum.

“At the end of the Brexit process – not now, but when the terms of the deal are known – Scotland must have a choice about our future, “ she said, “a choice between following the UK down the Brexit path or becoming an independent country”.

  • 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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