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Scottish Parliamentary Election Manifesto Guide: Liberal Democrats

12 mins read

We break down some Liberal Democrat policies that students and young people should be aware of when casting their vote on the 6th of May

The election is merely three days away, so whether you are an undecided voter or just scoping out other party’s policies, now is the perfect time to familiarise yourself with the party manifesto points that are relevant to you.

Here we take a look at the Lib Dem manifesto and examine the direction that an Liberal Democrat government would take in the next parliamentary term.

Oppose a second independence referendum- instead argue for a federal UK

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie had vowed his MSPs would oppose holding a second independence referendum “at any point” over the next Holyrood term back in 2020, so this manifesto point is a given.

He was recently asked when he believed it would be reasonable to hold a second independence referendum.

“I’ll never think it is reasonable to have one, because I think we’re better together in the United Kingdom,” Mr Rennie said in response.

The Liberal Democrats “rejects the idea that the only choice is between [Scottish] independence and the status quo”.

Job or training guaranteed for under-24s

The pandemic has hit many people in a myriad of ways, and for the majority, it has been the area of employment that has been hit hardest. From losing jobs, to uncertainty on furlough and lack of hiring it has been a rough year.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats plan to deliver an additional 2,000 graduate apprenticeships with small businesses, as well as offering new jobs through public agencies and programs for the creative industries – and in other target sectors such as low carbon, care, education and artificial intelligence.

There are skills policies promised to provide a guarantee of a job or training for those aged up to 24, and a training bond of up to £5,000 to help people re-skill when they are losing their jobs.

Party leader Willie Rennie said: “We need to take action to stop a jobs crisis and put recovery first – we will kickstart investment to boost new jobs in clean-tech and green energy to future-proof careers.

“The last year has been tough, but the government’s own report shows a drop in jobs for young people in Scotland that is three times worse than the UK average – there can be no excuse for this.”

 Direct 15% of health spending to mental health

Mental health access is a massive issue for many people in Scotland, with long waiting times especially for young people and the most vulnerable individuals.

The latest figures for Scotland show more than 1,500 children and young people were waiting more than a year to access specialist support.

The Royal College of Psychiatry say we already face a “mental health emergency” exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.

The Liberal Democrats are committed to more health spending on this area than any other party. This comes as no surprise given their long-standing campaigning for mental health issues over the years.

However, what does their strategy look like?

They say they will train more mental health specialists to work in schools, community centres and GP practices and they will double training places for psychiatrists and councillors.

The Scottish Lib Dems also guarantee that no-one will have to wait more than a year to see a healthcare professional.

These are ambitious plans for the mental health sector at a time when the NHS is dealing with a massive back-log of surgeries and treatment.

All energy is to come from renewables by 2030

It’s no secret that young people in particular are concerned about the climate emergency, and a sense of urgency is considered by some critics to be absent from the forefront of policymaking.

However, the Liberal Democrats manifesto details a long list of environmental measures, from creating a million homes with emission-free heating to skills development in renewables for oil workers.

To add to the urgency, the Lib Dems will declare a “nature emergency” alongside the one on climate, with legislation setting targets for nature recovery and the clean-up of air, soils, seas and rivers.

The Lib Dems targets of “100% renewable energy available 100% of the time” by 2030 is extremely ambitious and leaves literally no degrees of freedom to operate within for failure. This won’t be easy to achieve with our eventual reliance on electrical cars and the increasing demand for electricity in the near-future to deviate from fossil fuels.

Lib Dem climate emergency spokeswoman Wera Hobhouse said: “The climate emergency is real.

“It’s upon us and we need to take radical action now.

“Our children will never forgive us if we allow the climate crisis to rob them of their future. The Liberal Democrats have a fully-costed, bold plan to protect our planet now and for generations to come. Neither Labour nor the Tories have a real plan for the climate emergency. Their desire for Brexit means we would have less money to invest in this crisis. Brexit would leave us out in the cold internationally and unable to work co-operatively with our European partners on this global issue. Young people and children across the world have been crying out for politicians to take action on the climate crisis. The Liberal Democrats are listening and will make real change happen.”

Scottish election 2021: Liberal Democrat manifesto pledges to 'put recovery  first' - BBC News
Party leader Willie Rennie with the Lideral Democrats manifesto. Credit: BBC News

Advocate education and rehabilitation for people caught for possession of drugs as opposed to punitive measures

The Liberal Democrats are the only party running on a Help Not Harm campaign in their manifesto, with an emphasis on getting personal drug users help and assistance over criminalisation.

The choice to treat drug abuse as a health problem is something critics have been calling for over the last decade and more.

The Lib Dems have ran on previous campaigns to legalise cannabis and and are often at the forefront of policy on progressive drug reformation.

They would advocate for drug-testing to be deployed at localities where there is a need, allowing at-risk users to find out what is in a substance and offer advice on harm reduction.

Establish a cross-party commission to recommend steps to prevent violence against women and girls in all its forms

This is supported by opposition parties to generally tackle violence against women and girls in Scotland, and all political parties support this initiative. At a time where the conversation surrounding preventing violence against women is extremely visible in society given the recent death of Sarah Everard and other examples of violence, it is important to continue to develop strategies to reduce this violence and maintain a narrative of holding all perpetrators accountable.

“It’s important that we show that we are working together to address the concerns of Scotland’s women. The Commission would enable us to keep these issues at the forefront of people’s minds and show a commitment to protecting women and girls from violence.,” said Caron Lindsay.

Develop a system of Universal Basic Income

The issue of universal basic income in Scotland has been considered and discussed for a few years now.

An expert panel commissioned by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had recommended that Scots of working age are paid £11,000 a year as part of a new £186 million experiment in adopting a universal basic income in 2020.

Sir Ed Davey MP said, “During the coronavirus epidemic, millions of people have fallen through the cracks in the government’s financial support. Many have risked their health, and continued in poorly paid work to keep a roof over their heads. Millions of unpaid carers have worked harder than ever. Some of the most marginalised in society have been overlooked. This isn’t right. It isn’t fair. It doesn’t line up with our values as Liberal Democrats.”

Trials of UBI have suggested it can improve mental health, financial wellbeing, and boost people’s confidence. It can properly value carers and caring for the first time and in practice can be a huge boost to the incomes of many women in particular. It can act as a second safety net for those in difficulty, for the most marginalised who fall through the current complicated system

We never know what’s around the corner. Coronavirus has shown us just how fragile our system is, and how easily it can fail people. From shielding people from another global crisis to rewarding informal caring, we need a system which prioritises social and economic resilience for individuals and for our country.”

The full Liberal Democrats manifesto can be found here for a more in-depth look at all policies.

Featured Image Credit: Scottish Liberal Democrats

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