We break down some SNP 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 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 SNP manifesto and examine the direction that an SNP government would take in the next parliamentary term.
Second independence referendum
No surprises here- one of the central promises in the SNP manifesto is to, if achieving a majority vote share, hold a post-pandemic referendum on Scotland’s future in the UK. This was no reveal by any means, as the SNP’s position has remained clear: if elected, there is a mandate for pressing on with independence. The SNP has stressed that such a referendum will be post-pandemic due to criticism regarding their priorities, with opposition parties saying they are putting the push for independence ahead of the Covid pandemic.
The text is explicit that “we are seeking the permission of the Scottish people in this election to hold an independence referendum, to take place after the [Covid] crisis”.
The SNP have stated there is a mandate for holding another indyref since the Brexit referendum of 2016 saw Scotland forced to leave the EU despite Scotland voting in favour of the UK staying in the EU by 62% to 38% – with all 32 council areas backing Remain.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has so far rejected the idea of a second indyref outright. He said a referendum would “continue the political stagnation Scotland has seen for the past decade”.
However, Sturgeon told the Guardian, ““If people in Scotland vote for a party saying, ‘when the time is right, there should be an independence referendum’, you cannot stand in the way of that, and I don’t think that is what will happen.”
Scrap council tax charges for all under-22s
Renting and home ownership has become increasingly difficult for young people over the last decade, with stagnant wages and skyrocketing costs of living affecting everyone in society and preventing young people from saving for that mortgage or putting down the deposit as easily as they should be able to. While this policy doesn’t affect students, who are exempt from council tax, it is a small victory for when you rent post-education and don’t have your SAAS to subsidise your income.
For a young person living alone in a Band B property that will mean an annual saving of around £750.
For young people who aren’t in education, this is a moderate saving.
The SNP are also proposing a national council tax freeze for all across Scotland.
On council tax, the SNP has given up on proposing reform, instead hoping a consensus could emerge from cross-party talks and a Citizens’ Assembly. Fourteen years in office have taught the SNP leader that it’s easy to be against council tax, but much more difficult to replace it.
Abolish all NHS dental charges, ensuring an NHS truly free at the point of need
This policy is one that perhaps isn’t as widely known as it should be, as it is often as surprise to others when mentioning it in conversation despite being somewhat radical as a return to the ethos and spirit of the original NHS created post-war and championed by the Labour party, where the NHS would be fully free at the point of use.
The First Minister said the move “will ensure that cost is not a barrier to accessing health care”, and is anticipated to come with an estimated cost of £100 million to the taxpayer.
By scrapping the fees the SNP would “complete a mission to restore all of Scotland’s NHS to its founding principle – universal healthcare, provided free at the point of need”, Sturgeon said.
David Phillips, an associate director at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said of the SNP’s manifesto pledges: “Paying for all of these pledges in what could be a tight funding environment over the next few years will require tricky trade-offs though – tax rises or spending cuts in at least some other areas.
Invest £100 million in the strategy to prevent violence against women and girls, and increased support for all child victims and witnesses of crime with access to a “Bairn’s Hoose” by 2025
The SNP have been criticised by some for delivering a Hate Crime Bill which doesn’t have ample provisions for discrimination and violence against women and girls- the party says it will act swiftly if an expert group recommends a criminal offence of misogynistic harassment. The party has promised £100 million in funding to strategies tackling violence against women and girls.
There are commitments to establish a victims’ commissioner and that every child victim or witness of crime will have access to a “Bairn’s Hoose” by 2025, which would allow youngsters who’re involved in the criminal justice system to get all the support they need under one roof.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said his party will adopt a form of the “Barnahus” model used in some Scandinavian countries’ justice systems. In Scotland, it will be called “Bairns’ Hoose”.
Barnhaus is a child-centred response for children who are victims or witnesses of serious crime and abuse.
Mr Yousaf said: “We know how difficult involvement in the justice system can be for anyone, but it can be particularly difficult for children. In everything we do we must respect the rights and wellbeing of children and young people.
“At present, young people caught up in the justice system may have to go through multiple different services in multiple locations. That simply isn’t right.”
Increase NHS frontline spending by at least 20%, and maintain free prescriptions
Recovering well from COVID as a nation will be impossible without increased spending to essential, vital sectors and plenty of policies centralised around financial easing for the individual.
COVID has particularly devastated the NHS, with a severe back-log of patients who desperately need treatment and surgery. Patients with mental health conditions have similarly faced severe waiting times and have not received therapy during the pandemic.
Sturgeon said, “For patients, we’ll establish a fast track cancer diagnostic centre in every health board area.
“We’ll invest £10 billion over the next decade to replace and refurbish health facilities across Scotland.
“And we will continue to invest in and reform mental health services, with a particular focus on child and adolescent services – an even greater priority given the impact of Covid on so many.
“So we will increase direct Scottish Government investment in mental health by at least 25%.”
The SNP are committed to maintaining the free prescriptions in Scotland, an SNP introduced initiative in 2011, but supported and achieved by cross party support.
Free stuff: free laptop or tablet, with a free internet connection, for every school pupil, and free bikes for all school children who can’t afford one
In an attempt to decrease the technological divide, the SNP have proposed giving a laptop or tablet for free to every school pupil, with a free internet connection. The £350million policy will see all children from P1 to S6 receive an internet-connected device. It’s a bit of an interesting one considering it directly deals with the problem of technological exclusion in an inter-connected world, but seems potentially misguided the more you ponder it as it is not a substitute for learning- no substitute for good teachers.
It’s theoretically a positive, especially for children in poverty or low income households to access the online world and online learning, but again it doesn’t tackle many of the root societal causes behind that education gap.
Sturgeon said, “If we are re-elected in May, the SNP will roll out a new programme to deliver into the hands of every school child in Scotland a laptop, Chromebook or tablet to use in school and at home.
“We will end the digital divide between those who have access to the rich educational resources of the internet and open that electronic world to every child in Scotland.”
Similarly with free bikes, it’s definitely a positive policy but perhaps falls short of tackling some bigger issues for students from low income families or care environments. The SNP are also committed to ensuring that every child in Scotland leaves school with the ability to cycle safely.
These policies are somewhat ‘give-away’ policies which attract voters initially with their free and immediate nature and have faced criticism from opposition parties along these lines.
A greener Scotland: net zero by 2045, nationalise the railways, and double the funding to world-leading Climate Justice Fund
The aforementioned policies are not exhaustive of the SNP green strategy as there are further plans to decarbonise homes and eliminate fossil fuel buses by 2023 from the public, the bottom line is that the SNP are closely aligned with Green Party values and policies and have their eyes open to the climate crisis at least. It could be argued that the SNP policies are not radical enough to truly tackle climate change however it must be considered that the huge overhaul of our entire society and lifestyles is no easy or immediate task.
Net zero by 2045 plans for no carbon emissions in Scotland a whole 5 years earlier than the rest of the UK; this is a cross party promise that is echoed by opposition parties also. Scottish politics generally speaking has cross party consensus on most green initiatives.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said there was an “unprecedented” challenge ahead to deliver targets while rebuilding the economy in the wake of Covid-19.
However, she said the government was “determined” to grasp the opportunities of “a transition to a fairer, more sustainable and greener economy”.
The full SNP manifesto can be found here, for a fully comprehensive look at all policies.
Featured Image Credit: Harry Williamson/Brig