Scottish election 2021: Did the SNP live up to its 2016 election promises?

When the SNP Government was elected in 2016, its ambitious manifesto pledged to improve life in Scotland over the course of the next parliament.

Here, we take a look at some of those pledges and whether they have been met.


Invest an additional £750 million over the next Parliament to close the gap in educational attainment in schools.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon  made a series of pledges when her party was elected in 2016. Picture: PAFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon  made a series of pledges when her party was elected in 2016. Picture: PA
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made a series of pledges when her party was elected in 2016. Picture: PA


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The Scottish Government launched its £750 million Attainment Scotland Fund - a targeted initiative focused on supporting pupils in the local authorities of Scotland with the highest concentrations of deprivation, including Glasgow, Dundee, Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire, North Ayrshire, Clackmannanshire, North Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire and Renfrewshire.

However, despite the government’s claims that is has made “good progress” on closing the gap, a recent report by Audit Scotland warned that poverty-related attainment gap remains wide and existing inequalities have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Early years

Double free childcare to 30 hours and create 600 new childcare centres, with 20,000 more qualified staff by 2021.


The Scottish Government has delayed the rollout of its extension of free childcare from the beginning of the last academic year to this August, due to coronavirus. However, in practice, many parents have found that they cannot get a funded place for their young children. Figures published at the end of last year by the Improvement Service showed that more than 56,000 children in Scotland - 61 per cent of those eligible - are already receiving 1,140 hours.

The SNP says that staffing has risen to 17,924 – up from 9,576 in 2016/17 – and that the most recent figure for capital projects is 917. However, a report published by the Accounts Commission just weeks before the coronavirus lockdown hit last year, said around half the extra staff needed to fulfil the extended hours were yet to be recruited and three-quarters of the extra building work was still not finished.

Support parents with a ‘baby box’ for every newborn child in Scotland, provide new financial support for low-income families to meet essential early years costs, and recruit 500 health visitors by 2018.


Scotland’s baby box scheme, rolled out in 2017 has been hailed as a success, delivering more than 168,000 baby boxes to families, containing essential items such as clothes, bedding and a digital thermometer. In 2018, the new Best Start Grant, Pregnancy and Baby Payment, offered eligible low income parents or carers £600 for their first child and £300 for all subsequent children.

In 2018, the target to recruit 500 new health visitors was extended to the end of this year, however the SNP says that the target has been met and that there are over 700 additional health visitors in post since the commitment to recruit 500 more was made.

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SNP manifesto: what are Nicola Sturgeon's key promises ahead of the Scottish Par...


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Transform the NHS with nearly £2 billion of extra investment, deliver more healthcare closer to home, take new action to tackle cancer, and improve mental health services.


The coronavirus crisis has thrown Scotland’s health system into crisis, with waiting lists for screenings and treatment for cancer and mental health appointments rocketing. It is believed that 7,000 people are now thought to be living with an undiagnosed cancer due to a pause in testing during the coronavirus outbreak. In June last year, figures showed that NHS Scotland fell short of its cancer waiting times target for the seventh year in a row.

However, the SNP insists that frontline health funding has increased from £12.43 billion in 2016/17 to £15.52 billion in 2021/22 - and increase of £2.77 billion over the parliament not including spend on Covid-19. It said the number of CAMHS (mental health services for young people) nursing staff increased by 7.7 per cent and CAMHS psychiatry staffing had increased by 16.5 per cent.


Extend payment of the Living Wage – ensuring that all social care workers receive the Living Wage by October 2016 and double the number of accredited employers from 500 to 1,000 by autumn 2017.


A commitment to ensure adult social care workers receive at least the Real Living Wage of £9.50 an hour was agreed with COSLA - but only two months ago, falling almost four years short of the October 2016 deadline. Over 1,800 companies are now accredited, according to the Poverty Alliance.

Young people:

Increase the number of Modern Apprenticeships to 30,000 a year by 2020 – 5,000 in highly skilled careers.


Figures published by the Scottish Government last year showed that a new target for 2018/19 of 28,000 Modern Apprenticeship starts was on course to be met, with 29,000 targeted for the following year.

A Scottish approach to social security:

Create a Scottish Social Security Agency, with “fairness and dignity” at its core.


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The Scottish Government carried out a feasibility study into the creation of the Scottish social security agency, Social Security Scotland, in 2018.

Increase Carer’s Allowance so that it matches Jobseeker’s Allowance.


New-style Job Seekers Allowance is £74.70 a week for those aged over 25. Carer’s Allowance is £67.25 a week.

Scrap the Bedroom Tax.

Although the Bedroom Tax is still in existence, the Scottish Government says it has fully mitigated the tax in Scotland through Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs).

Restore housing benefit for 18-21 year olds.

In 2018, a UK Government u-turn restored housing benefit for 18- to 21-year-olds. However, before that, the Scottish Government announced that the Scottish Welfare Fund could be used to help those affected by the policy, after lobbying unsuccessfully to make Scottish young people exempt from the UK-wide initiative.

Building warm, affordable homes

Build at least 50,000 new homes across Scotland, and introduce a Warm Homes Bill to tackle fuel poverty and improve energy efficiency.


The latest figures from the Scottish Government, published in March, showed that 21,910 new build homes were completed in the year to March 2020 alone, with a similar number completed in the previous twelve months.

Lead on tackling climate change:

Introduce a new Climate Change Act, with target of reducing emissions by more than 50 per cent by 2020.


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The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 sets targets to reduce Scotland's emissions of all greenhouse gases to net-zero by 2045 at the latest, with interim targets for reductions of at least 56 per cent by 2020, 75 per cent by 2030 and 90 per cent by 2040.

A report published at the end of last year by the Committee on Climate Change found that by 2018, total Scottish emissions were 45 per cent lower than 1990s levels and stated that the 2020 target was likely to be met.


Deliver superfast broadband to 100 per cent of premises across Scotland.


Last year, the Scottish Government introduced a voucher scheme to help ensure everyone in Scotland will have access to superfast broadband by the end of 2021. The Scottish Broadband Voucher Scheme will provide funding of up to £5,000 to help homes and businesses not in scope of either Reaching 100 per cent - the government’s R100 project - contracts or planned commercial investment to obtain superfast broadband where providers may not ordinarily go.

The figure of 100 per cent has not yet been attained.

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