Nicola Sturgeon has called for Scotland to be given a choice on independence and an end to austerity as she unveiled the SNP’s general election manifesto.
The party leader and Scottish First Minister launched the document in Glasgow on Wednesday flanked by the message “stop Brexit”.
The SNP is in a unique position in the UK in this election, in that it leads a government at Holyrood but cannot do so at Westminster.
At best, the party could hope to influence a UK minority Labour government, with Sturgeon having vowed never to prop up the Conservatives and ruled out any formal coalitions.
But the SNP leader told supporters there was “every chance” the party would be a powerbroker after voters go the polls.
While the SNP controls government policy in Edinburgh, at Westminster the party’s manifesto broadly consists of demands and legislative proposals that would need the backing of other parties to happen.
So, what is in the SNP’s pitch to voters ahead of December 12?
Central to the SNP’s prospectus is its demand for a second independence referendum by the end of 2020.
Sturgeon already claims a mandate to do this based on her 2016 Holyrood election victory.
Her party won 63 seats in the Scottish Parliament – more than double its nearest rival but short of an overall majority – standing on the basis it would push for indyref2 if there was a “material change of circumstances” such as Brexit.
But the First Minister currently accepts a so-called Section 30 order agreed by the UK Government is required to put a second referendum “beyond legal challenge”, as was signed off for the 2014 vote.
Boris Johnson says he will deny any such request from Scottish ministers, while Jeremy Corbyn says he would not agree to it in the “early years” of a Labour government.
The SNP manifesto insists:
- Westminster should not have the right to overrule Holyrood on this issue or on the timing of a vote.
- A win for the SNP in the general election should be treated as a “clear instruction” from Scottish voters to whoever forms the next UK Government to grant a Section 30 order.
While it wants independence for Scotland, the SNP claims it seeks to stop the “disaster” of Brexit for the whole of the UK.
Sturgeon’s party will:
- Support a second, UK-wide Brexit referendum with Remain on the ballotpaper and campaign for Remain.
- Back revoking Article 50 and cancelling Brexit altogether – as is Lib Dem policy – if it is the only way to prevent leaving the EU without a deal.
- Work to keep the UK “as close to the EUas possible” whatever happens with Brexit or independence.
- Push to keep or regain EU membership if Scotland becomes independent.
The nationalists’ manifesto says the “pre-election bribes” by the Tories and Labour “do not mean an end to austerity, not least with the prospect of Brexit… around the corner”.
The SNP says Scottish public services have lost out on nearly £14bn of real-terms investment since 2010 due to UK austerity.
- It will press the next Westminster government to “reverse” cuts to Scottish budgets so Holyrood can provide greater investment for public services.
- It will “not support any UK governmentthat does not end austerity”.
- It will oppose tax cuts for big business and the wealthy at a UK-level and support crackdowns on tax evasion and avoidance.
- It will oppose any increases in VAT and hold both main UK parties to their commitment to end VAT for sanitary products – the so-called “tampon tax”.
- It will support legislation to reform the energy market so tariffs and costs and switching options are easier to understand and navigate for customers.
The SNP leader is calling for an “NHS Protection Bill” to protect the health service from any future post-Brexit deal with the US.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has repeatedly warned of a “sweetheart” Johnson-Trump trade deal that would allow US companies access to Britain’s health services.
Earlier on Wednesday, he revealed what he claimed was evidence the NHS and drug prices had been discussed in initial UK-US trade talks.
The Prime Minister has dismissed the claims as “total nonsense” and promised that the NHS won’t be on the table in formal negotiations
The SNP says:
- Its proposed Bill to safeguard the NHS against Trump would “enshrine in law thatour NHS must be protected as publicly owned,publicly operated, and its servicespublicly commissioned”.
- The legislation would force any future UK Government to have explicit protectionsand exemptions for the NHS on the face of any future tradeagreements.
- It would also contain a “double lock” required the “explicit consent” of all the devolved parliaments to ratify any trade deals.
As part of its ambitions to tackle austerity and to take on other policy areas, the SNP is calling for a raft of new powers for Holyrood, including:
- New tax powers to accompany the transfer of income tax powers in recent years.
- Powers over drug laws to introduce “effective public health measures” to tackle the drug deaths crisis – and in advance of that, agreement by the Home Office on opening a safe injecting facility in Glasgow.
- The devolution of migration powers to build a system “tailored” to Scotland’s economic needs.
On the social security system, SNP demands include:
- An end to the two-child benefit cap,the “rape clause”, and to universal credit.
- A halt to the benefit freeze, to benefits sanctions and the “bedroom tax”.
- No increase to the state pension age.
- 12 weeks’ statutory leave for new fathers and improved paternity pay.
- Increasing maternity leave to 12 months and boosting maternity pay.
- Enshrining an increase of overall statutory parental leave from 52 weeks to 64.
With many areas of policy related to the environment already devolved, the SNP nonetheless has a range of proposals in this election for tackling climate change.
- Push the UK Government to meet the Scottish Government’s climate change targets of a 75% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2035 as well its plan to move fully to electrical vehicles by 2032.
- Campaign to keep the UK tied to Brussels’ environmental standards and regulations even if Brexit plans.
- Put pressure on Westminster to invest in renewable energy as well as emerging technologies like carbon capture and storage.
- Demand the ring-fencing of tax revenues from the oil and gas sector for a “net-zero fund” to finance the transition to a greener economy.
- Pressure the UK to decarbonise the energy grid.
The SNP insists it “has never and will never support the retention or renewal of Trident” nuclear weapons.
The party says the £205bn to be spent on replacing the nuclear detterent over the next 30 years “could be far more effectively used to support our public services”.
SNP MPs at Westminster “will build a cross-party coalition to scrap Trident as quickly and as safely as possible”, the manifesto claims.