Securing a long-term recovery from the Covid pandemic will be the “overriding ambition” of the SNP if it is re-elected to power next month, Nicola Sturgeon has pledged.
The First Minister and SNP leader said there would be “no limit” to her party’s ambitions for boosting the economy and creating new jobs.
Infrastructure investment of more than £33bn over the next five years could support some 45,000 jobs, Sturgeon said, adding that plans to build 100,000 affordable homes over the next decade could support a further 14,000 jobs a year.
She also vowed the SNP would continue to push the Tories at Westminster to act against the “disgraceful” fire and rehire tactics that have been used by some employers, resulting in workers being faced with the choice of either losing their jobs or accepting reduced pay and conditions.
The party plans a £10m fund to help companies implement a four-day working week for employees, with more work on this possible “as and when Scotland gains full control of employment rights”.
On a possible minimum income guarantee, Sturgeon vowed her party would go “as far as we can to deliver a decent income for all”, although she said the Scottish Government was limited on this because it does not have full powers over tax and benefits.
She made the commitments as she insisted “bold” and “ambitious” choices were needed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic – which she said had “upended our economy and pushed our society to its very limits”.
Addressing the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) annual congress via a video message, Sturgeon stressed: “In learning the lessons of how we handled the pandemic, our recovery cannot simply involve turning the clock back to 2019.
“We must be bold and we must be ambitious and we must choose a recovery for the long term.
“If re-elected, this will be an SNP government’s overriding ambition and we will not waste any time in going about it.”
An SNP government would deliver a ten-year strategy for “economic transformation” within six months of being elected, Sturgeon said, adding that this would set out “the steps we will take to deliver a green economic recovery and support new green jobs, businesses and industries for the future”.
She added: “Investment in infrastructure will underpin that economic transformation. Our national infrastructure mission will increase annual investment by £1.5bn to almost £7bn by 2025-26.
“This will deliver a total investment value of over £33bn in the next five years, and it is estimated to support 45,000 jobs directly over that period, providing benefits across Scottish supply chains.”
Meanwhile, plans to build 100,000 affordable homes over next decade could support 14,000 jobs a year, the SNP leader said.
Sturgeon insisted: “With an SNP government there will be no limit to our ambitions for improving our economy and creating new jobs.
“But the quality of those jobs is every bit as important as the quantity.”
Sturgeon added: “During the pandemic some companies have used disgraceful fire and rehire tactics to undermine wages and conditions.
“The SNP will continue to push the UK Government to act, but it has so far refused to take the necessary steps to ban these exploitative practices.”
As a result she said the SNP would review the criteria in its Fair Work First policy, which encourages companies to commit to better working conditions to “include specific reference to fire and rehire conditions”.
STUC general secretary, Rozanne Foyer, said the organisation would seek to “shape the agenda in this election by focusing on the issues that matter to workers: pay, care and jobs”.
She stated: “We know the economic recovery will be challenging, we need new ideas that will make a real difference to working people, will give them job security and a future.
“We expect the next government of Scotland to deliver urgent reform of care, take action on pay and to match the promise of a green recovery with the scale of investment we need.
“We will continue to demand that our elected representatives deliver for working people.”
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