General Election 2010: SNP puts high-speed rail link at heart of manifesto

WORK on the new high-speed rail network should start in Scotland at the same time as in London, the SNP said today as it launched its manifesto for the General Election.

The Nationalists said they would use any influence in a hung parliament to press for construction to begin at both ends of the line rather than waiting for an extension to be built to Scotland in another 30 years.

SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: "From the shutdown of our airports due to poor winter weather to the transport restrictions we have faced in recent days, the case for high-speed rail from Scotland has never been clearer.

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"A 30-year wait without any real commitment from any of the London parties of actually delivering the line is unacceptable." The SNP said high-speed rail would boost business and help to meet climate change commitments. The manifesto also set out the SNP's vision for the creation of 60,000 green energy jobs in the next decade and highlighted key services the party is intent on protecting from the "cuts agenda" of the other parties, including free personal care, concessionary travel, new schools and the Forth Replacement Crossing.

The SNP proposes increasing pensions and the minimum wage in line with earnings, extending paternity leave and the introduction of a Scottish Veterans' Card.

The Scottish Green Party also launched its manifesto today, with an emphasis on tackling poverty, protecting public services and promoting new green jobs.

Former leader Robin Harper, who is standing in Edinburgh East, said the Green Party had shown it could make a difference at Holyrood and in local government and was now ready for Westminster. He said: "Our fresh and radical politics can help move on from the age of the political dinosaurs.

"We can negotiate honestly and effectively for Green ideas to be turned into positive, practical measures. But we're never afraid to stand up and say no when the larger parties try to throw their weight around. Constructive when possible, challenging when needed."

Among the Greens' policies are to encourage mutual financial institutions such as building societies and credit unions, to end the benefits trap by introducing a citizen's income in place of means-tested benefits, to introduce maximum wage ratios, to insulate all domestic and public sector buildings to a high standard, and to oppose new nuclear power stations and decommission existing ones as they age.

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray told the STUC conference in Dundee that Scotland would lose 4,000 public sector jobs immediately if the Tories won the election. He said the Conservatives' planned cuts would also put thousands of private sector jobs at risk.