Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, has urged voters to back Scottish Labour on Thursday, May 6 to elect MSPs focused on “solutions, not divisions”.
Mr Sarwar accused both the SNP and Tories of being “more interested in constitutional rows than delivering for the next generation”, and urged Scots to vote for a “better government” and “better opposition”.
“As we emerge from the collective trauma of Covid, we can’t afford to go back to the old arguments while our NHS loses funding, our children miss out on world-class education, businesses close and jobs go overseas,” he said.
Scottish Labour has centred its election campaign on Scotland’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, massive investments in the NHS, and its opposition to another independence referendum.
Here is all you need to know about Scottish Labour’s manifesto pledges.
Scottish Labour manifesto
The Scottish Labour manifesto pledges to oppose another independence referendum for the five years of the next parliament, while also seeking to secure further devolution of powers from Westminster, in particular regarding borrowing and employment rights.
The party aims to set up a Clean up Holyrood Commission to consult on the changes needed to strengthen the Scottish Parliament’s ability to hold the government to account and restore faith following the Alex Salmond affair.
As part of Scottish Labour’s pledge to boost Scotland’s economic recovery from the pandemic, the party wants to deliver a high street bailout plan with reduced business rates on non-grocery bricks and mortar shops and a taskforce to review the rates regime. A Business Restart Fund would also continue to support businesses facing financial hardship as a result of restrictions.
The party wants to bring shoppers back to town centres with a £75 pre-paid card for every adult in Scotland to be spent in non-food retail businesses.
In a bid to restart Scotland’s tourism sector, the party wants to launch a Great Scottish Staycation 2021 campaign, with taxpayer-funded subsidies on holiday accommodation. Any tourist travelling within or to Scotland would receive every third night of accommodation free on off-peak dates between September to November 2021.
Other financial policies include:
Everyone aged under 25 who does not have a job, the long-term unemployed and every disabled person without a job who are not already benefiting from other job schemes, will be guaranteed a job within the Scottish public sector with a wage paid for an average of six months by the Scottish Government.
A Scottish Skills Benefit will offer everyone who is unemployed, along with those currently on furlough, a £500 grant for retraining while retaining their benefits or furlough payments.
Reinvigorate apprenticeships across Scotland by targeting 5,000 new places in the next financial year, with subsidised wages to raise pay for all.
Ensure no publicly procured contract uses zero-hours contracts.
Scottish Labour aims to find ‘missing’ cancer diagnoses from the pandemic with a catch-up scheme for Scotland’s screening programmes. This would involve increasing staff and processing capacity, with the backlog of appointments cleared by April 2022. The party aims to establish rapid diagnostic centres in each health board area where GPs can refer patients who have suspicious but unclear symptoms so that instead of waiting months, patients can have a diagnosis within two weeks.
The party also wants to establish dedicated mental health A&Es in every health board area, integrated with suicide prevention and substance misuse services to support people in crisis. This pledge includes increasing the mental health budget to 11 per cent of the NHS budget, to match spending in England and Wales.
The party also wants to make social care freely available at the point of need by reversing the recent narrowing of eligibility criteria and removing all non-residential charges.
Mr Sarwar aims to end all public sector support for fee-paying private schools and axe their charitable status for business rates relief.
He also intends to provide every young person with a Personal Comeback Plan from the pandemic, which would include an individual mental health assessment.
The manifesto also states that any young person wanting to resit qualifications will be supported to do so, while every young person should be given a Summer Comeback Pass to provide free access to sport, transport, outdoor activities and culture.
The climate crisis takes centre stage in the manifesto with the pledge to upgrade all homes to at least an energy efficiency rating of C or higher by 2030 and, where possible, zero carbon by 2045.
The party also wants to establish a national housing agency to work closely with local authorities and coordinate the roll out of measures including insulation, double glazing, boiler replacement, forms of renewable heat, and heat networks. Low and middle income households would be awarded grant funding while other households would be offered interest free loans to pay for the upgrades, up to £18,000.
Separately, the party intends to plant at least 15,000 hectares of trees a year and increase peatland restoration to 20,000 hectares each year.
Tax and benefits
The party has proposed a £100 rebate on water charges for every household funded by Scottish Water’s £531 million surplus. It also wants to abolish the council tax and replace it with an alternative based on property values and ability to pay.
The manifesto pledges to create a Staying Connected fund offering grants – up to the annual value of the TV licence, currently £159 – to all households with an individual aged 75 and over to either cover the costs of their licence or go towards internet and connectivity bills.
Scottish Labour wants to increase the number of police officers in local divisions by at least 500 to reverse cuts to local policing.