SNP pledges more help for cities and new green target

ALEX Salmond today launched the SNP's manifesto, promising special support for Scotland's cities, an ambitious new green energy target and more action on apprenticeships.

He said if he was re-elected as First Minister, he would introduce a new Cities Agenda and appoint a Cities Minister.

He said: "We want Scotland's cities to flourish and our plan will bring together investment in the economy, culture, transport and infrastructure to support these engines of growth in the Scottish economy."

He pledged to set a new target of generating 100 per cent of Scotland's electricity from renewable energy by 2020 - up from the current target of 80 per cent - and deliver 130,000 jobs in the low carbon economy.

And Mr Salmond said there would be a new initiative to help young people into jobs. "We will ask every company in receipt of a significant government contract, or public support, to produce a training and apprenticeship plan as part of our wider action on skills, building on our record 25,000 apprenticeship places this year."

With three weeks to go until polling day on May 5, Mr Salmond made a direct pitch to voters: "These elections are about Scotland. You will choose the best government for our nation. Scotland needs a Scottish Government that is working hard for people in every part of this country."

He said progress had been made over the past four years. "Our nation is safer, with 1000 more police in our communities. Treatment in our health service is better and faster, and we've kept it close to home. Family budgets have been protected by the SNP, with the council tax frozen, prescription charges scrapped and bridge tolls removed. Class sizes are at a record low in our primary schools, exam results at a record high in our secondaries, and more young Scots are in modern apprenticeships.

"Scotland is on a journey. This manifesto follows the most extensive consultation undertaken by a Scottish political party. It sets out the next steps: our ideas and ambitions for the next five years. With an SNP government putting Scotland first, there is much more we can achieve."

A survey of the five most recent polls shows the SNP closing the gap on Labour. It says Labour would win 57 seats to the SNP's 51, with 13 Tories and just five Lib Dems.

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray today visited Edinburgh's Lochend Football Club to launch his party's sports manifesto with the aim of improving Scotland's health and harnessing the opportunities of the Commonwealth Games.

More than 2500 Scots die every year from diseases associated with a lack of exercise.

• Leader of the Scottish Greens Patrick Harvey will be taking part in a live webchat on scotsman.com on Monday, April 18 at 12pm.

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