The SNP has launched its 2019 election manifesto, with the slogan “Stronger for Scotland”. It sets out the policies the party aims to introduce, should it win the election.
1. Stop Brexit
Keep Scotland in the EU by supporting a second Brexit referendum with Remain on the ballot paper.
About a third of Scotland’s million Leave voters at the Brexit referendum in 2016 were also supporters of Scottish independence. However, Nicola Sturgeon has come down firmly in favour of the UK remaining within the EU, or re-joining it if Scotland becomes independent.
At Westminster, the party’s MPs have backed moves towards another Brexit referendum, so long as Remain is an option on the ballot paper. That remains the position in the current election’s manifesto. If it comes to a choice for MPs between revoking Brexit and “no deal” with the European Union, the SNP says it would back revocation.
In addition, Brexit is being seen by the SNP as such a big change to the UK constitution that it warrants another vote on Scottish independence or indyref2 as it is known. Even if Brexit is thrown into reverse the SNP will still use any leverage it has after this election to secure indyref2, arguing that the Brexit “chaos” will continue for years.
2. Hold indyref2 in 2020
Ask the UK government to give the Scottish Parliament the power to hold a referendum next year on independence.
Precisely nobody will be surprised to see support for an independence referendum in the SNP manifesto. To be clear, the party already believes it has several mandates for a new poll, but hopes that a big win on 12 December will really cement its case.
This is because the big question about indyref2 is how it comes about. Nicola Sturgeon wants an agreement with the UK government before holding a vote, but has seen the Conservatives rule this out completely and Labour say it wouldn’t be on the table in the “early years” of a new government.
If Ms Sturgeon is to get a referendum on her 2020 timetable, something needs to give – and she wants the result of this election to send a big message to both potential prime ministers about “Scotland’s future being in Scotland’s hands”.
3. Scrap Trident
Get rid of the UK’s nuclear deterrent and spend the money on public services.
The SNP has long called for the removal of Britain’s nuclear armed submarines from Scottish waters. Nicola Sturgeon has recently stated it would be a red line for the SNP if it were to back any Labour government.
Jeremy Corbyn, too, has long been an opponent of nuclear weapons, but official Labour Party policy (restated in its manifesto) – like that of the Conservatives – is to support the renewal of Trident.
The Liberal Democrats say they’d keep Trident but reduce the nuclear posture of round-the-clock patrols with three instead of four submarines. The trouble is that the Westminster Parliament has already given the green light to build four new submarines to carry the Trident missiles at a cost of £35bn. That work is already well under way.
The SNP still believes scrapping Trident would free up tens of billions of pounds to strengthen conventional forces and to spend on hospitals and schools.
But critics of the SNP position warn that scrapping Trident would hit the local economy on the Clyde where the submarines are based. They also argue it could jeopardise Britain’s position as a recognised nuclear power and permanent member of the UN Security Council.
4. Protect the NHS
Introduce a bill to protect the health service from privatisation and future trade deals.
The future of the NHS – and its part in any post-Brexit trade deals – has already been a major battleground in this election.
Although the Scottish government is responsible for running the health service in Scotland, there have been concerns that after Brexit, trade negotiations between the UK and US could lead to American companies bidding for contracts and pushing up the cost of drugs.
The SNP’s NHS Protection Act would enshrine in law that the NHS is protected as publicly-owned and operated with its services publicly commissioned.
The SNP says it will stop the health service becoming a lever in any kind of international trade deal. Crucially the legislation says any trade deal would require the consent of all the devolved parliaments and assemblies to ensure it did not impact on the health service.
However, the Conservatives have strongly denied the NHS would ever be used as a bargaining tool. Expect to hear more about it during the campaign.
5. Tackle the drugs crisis
Devolve drug classification powers to Holyrood.
Scotland has a drugs death crisis. There is an escalating number of drug deaths in Scotland – in 2018 a record total of 1,187. The death rate in Scotland is the worst in the EU and three times higher than the UK as a whole.
The SNP has voiced frustration that some radical solutions cannot be explored. At present, drugs policy is reserved to Westminster under the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act. The SNP manifesto wants the power to allow a consumption room in Glasgow where users could inject or smoke their own illegal drugs. But this has been put on hold because the Home Office refused permission for Scotland’s senior law officer, the Lord Advocate, to grant legal protection for it.
The SNP argues the proposal would connect hard-to-reach users with drug treatment services and help cut the death toll among older addicts. It’s a high-profile pledge but they acknowledge it’s just one part of an issue that will require long-term action.
6. Tackle the climate emergency
Demand the UK government matches Holyrood’s climate change targets.
While some parties have been throwing around new dates for achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, the SNP has not. But then the ink is barely dry on Scottish legislation which set 2045 as the new target year.
Instead it commits its MPs to push the new UK government into helping Scotland achieve that target through accelerating the deployment of carbon capture, usage and storage – a key technology for tackling the ‘climate crisis’ – and matching Scotland’s 2032 date for all new cars to be electric.
It also wants taxation reformed to support “greener choices”, like making our homes more energy-efficient.
But the SNP insists Brexit must not be allowed to derail the train carrying us towards net-zero. And – unsurprisingly – suggests that the key to going even further in addressing climate change is… independence.
7. Increase paternity leave
Up the provision of paid leave for parents and encourage dads to take more time off.
All the parties are making some kind of offer to new parents. The SNP’s goes further than most.
Nicola Sturgeon says its offer would be a “game changer”- a new 12-week use-it-or-lose-it period of “daddy leave”.
Parents are currently entitled to convert up to 50 weeks of their 52-week maternity leave to shared parental leave but take-up by dads has been “stubbornly low”. The SNP is offering to extend this to 64 weeks with 12 weeks ring-fenced for fathers to encourage them to take the time off with their new babies.
In addition it is offering to increase statutory pay and introduce stronger protections against redundancy for new parents.
How the SNP could introduce this is open to question. Parental leave is covered by employment law and this is decided by Westminster, not Holyrood, so the SNP would need to win the support of other parties or introduce a private members’ bill to deliver this proposal.
- To find out more read our simple guide to the SNP
What do the other parties offer?
Here’s a concise guide to where the parties stand on key issues like Brexit, education and the NHS.