So far the eye-catching policy announcements have all come from Nicola Sturgeon. Scotland’s most popular politician and favourite to again become First Minister has begun to set out her stall early. NHS Scotland workers have been promised a 4 four per cent pay rise, four times the paltry amount offered south of the border by Boris Johnson, and under the SNP Scotland will have a National Care Service and see the establishment of a network of fast-track cancer diagnostic centres in every part of Scotland.
In a moral as well as a political statement: the ending of child poverty is being made a ‘national mission’ by Nicola Sturgeon with a doubling of the Scottish Child Payment to £20 per week. This will benefit more than 400,000 children in 250,000 households. All low income families with children in receipt of free school meals will be provided with the equivalent of the Scottish Child Payment with “bridging payments’ until the benefit is introduced in full. This amounts to £520 and will be paid in quarterly payments this year and in 2022. It will be a game changer in dealing with child poverty.
The high-profile pledge by the First Minister at yesterday’s virtual SNP conference comes after a major £350m commitment by Education Secretary John Swinney to provide a free laptop or tablet for every child in Scotland to use at home and school. Meanwhile younger Scots, who have been particularly hit by the coronavirus pandemic are in line for a major savings with the the age at which council tax is paid is set to be raised from 18 to 21. This equates to a saving of £750 a year for someone living alone in a Band D property.
Housing is set for a major boost with a commitment to 100,000 new affordable homes, in addition to the 96,750 affordable homes already delivered under the SNP. This will include at least 70 per cent for social rent and support up to 14,000 jobs a year.
All of these policy announcements are important and exciting, and they point to the kind of country we can be as we emerge from the pandemic. I expect there to be much more when there SNP’s full manifesto is published. Not only will we have a choice about policy priorities but about who leads the country.
When we vote in the Scottish Parliament elections, we will be able to vote for Nicola Sturgeon’s experience and leadership by casting both of our votes for the SNP. In addition to being able to elect an SNP constituency MSP we can use our regional list vote to re-elect Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP Scottish Government and to hold a referendum on our independent future. There are no short-cuts to a Holyrood majority and securing an independence referendum. As the 2011 Scottish Parliament election proved, it was the SNP winning list and constituency seats that secured the majority and the referendum mandate that led to the 2014 independence vote. That’s why its got to be #BothVotesSNP.