Nicola Sturgeon to demand Labour increases NHS spending as SNP launch manifesto

Nicola Sturgeon will today demand the next UK government matches Scotland’s current spending per head on the NHS as she launches her party’s election manifesto in Glasgow.

The SNP leader will urge the next Premier to commit to spending to £136 more per person on frontline services – a total of £35 billion extra.

Such an increase would create an additional £4bn for the health service north of the Border in Barnett consequentials by the end of the parliamentary term.

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Ms Sturgeon will make the demand as she sets out further details on her party’s bargaining strategy in the event of a hung parliament following the vote on 12 December.

Nicola Sturgeon on the campaign trail in Uddingston yesterday where the SNP leader aid it was for the people to decide when a second vote on independence should take place. Picture: John DevlinNicola Sturgeon on the campaign trail in Uddingston yesterday where the SNP leader aid it was for the people to decide when a second vote on independence should take place. Picture: John Devlin
Nicola Sturgeon on the campaign trail in Uddingston yesterday where the SNP leader aid it was for the people to decide when a second vote on independence should take place. Picture: John Devlin

With current polling suggesting the SNP could make gains in Scotland, she is expected to tell Jeremy Corbyn that Nationalist support will be conditional on greater investment for the NHS.

Labour has already pledged to outspend a Conservative government by increasing expenditure across the health sector by an average of 4.3 per cent a year.

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The First Minister will say: “Despite Tory cuts, since 2010 we’ve increased frontline health funding by 13 per cent in real terms, with more to come.

“The SNP is spending £136 per head more on frontline health services in Scotland than in England.”

“This amounts to over £740 million more spending per year on frontline health services in Scotland, compared to the UK.

“Now, given our rural population, there should always be higher per capita spend in Scotland.

“However, if the next UK government raised health spending per head to the current Scottish level, closing that gap, it would not only substantially increase health investment in England, but would mean that by 2024-25, frontline investment to NHS Scotland would be more than £4bn higher than today.

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“A vote for the SNP is therefore a vote to reverse austerity and to protect our NHS.”

Ms Sturgeon is also set to issue a strong warning to voters of the “dangerous” consequences of Boris Johnson remaining in power after next month’s election.

Warning that “Brexit is nowhere near being done”, the SNP leader will say that “there is worse to come” if Boris Johnson is elected – with his proposed Brexit deal a “nightmare” for Scottish jobs, environmental standards and workers’ rights.

The SNP leader is also expected to tell an audience at Glasgow’s SWG3 venue: “A vote for the SNP is a vote to escape Brexit and put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands - not Boris Johnson’s.

“At the heart of this election is a fundamental question for the people of Scotland - who should decide Scotland’s future – the people who live here or Boris Johnson?

The future of our country is on the line.

“The reality of Westminster control over Scotland is this: a right-wing Tory government Scotland didn’t vote for and a Prime Minister in Boris Johnson who is dangerous and unfit for office.

“It means Tory cuts to the Scottish budget, the NHS under threat from a Tory-Trump trade deal, a power grab on the Scottish Parliament, children being forced into poverty and a disastrous Brexit deal that will hit jobs, living standards and workers’ rights.

“But there is worse to come – unless Boris Johnson is stopped this will just be the start.

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“Brexit is nowhere near being done. The Tories have barely got going – they haven’t even started trade talks.

“Because of Johnson’s hard line position, there is every chance the UK will leave without a trade deal next year. That would be a catastrophe for jobs.

“And even if he somehow avoids that, his dream deal will be a nightmare for Scotland. It will take Scotland out of the single market – which is eight times the size of the UK alone – and out of the Customs Union, the world’s biggest trading block.

“Environmental standards and workers’ rights will be at risk. And as night follows day, the Tories will sell-out Scotland’s fishing industry.

“The truth is Brexit will dominate Westminster politics for years and years to come.”

Speaking on the campaign trail in Uddingston yesterday, First Minister insisted it was for the people of Scotland – and not politicians – to decide when a fresh ballot on the issue should take place.

Earlier, as the Scots Tories launched their manifesto for that ballot, Scottish leader Jackson Carlaw suggested a gap of 40 years between referendums was a “fine definition” of what a generation should be.

In the run-up to the 2014 vote, SNP leaders told Scots the referendum would be a “once in a generation” event.

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But with Ms Sturgeon now pressing for a second ballot in the later part of 2020, the Scottish Tory leader hit out, saying: “There are different definitions of a generation but I’ll tell you what it ain’t – it’s not five years.”

He added: “We had 40 years between the two European referendums. That seems like a fine definition.”

Ms Sturgeon said: “I think the point Jackson Carlaw and Conservatives miss is this one – and it’s a pretty basic point of principle – it’s not up to Jackson Carlaw what the future of Scotland is.

“It’s not up to me what the future of Scotland is either, it’s up to the people of Scotland and it is not for any politician to set conditions or limits on the ability of any country to exercise its right to democracy.”

The First Minister continued: “It’s up to Scotland to decide if it wants to consider the question of independence again and it is up to Scotland to decide whether or not it wants to become an independent country.

“The Tories clearly have no respect for Scottish democracy at all.”