The Scottish National Party has unveiled their campaign manifesto, promising an alternative to austerity and reaffirming their commitment to EU membership.
Speaking at a rock climbing centre in Edinburgh yesterday (20 April), SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said her party would make “Scotland stronger at Westminster”.
The SNP want a 0.5% above inflation increase in government spending in each year of the next parliament. The party says this “modest” rise will still help reduce the deficit while freeing up £140 billion to invest in public services. The SNP also want greater financial independence for Scotland, specifically the ability to raise its own taxes.
— The SNP (@theSNP) April 20, 2015
The party opposes a referendum on EU membership which it says is “good for business”. If there is a vote, the SNP are arguing for a “double majority”. This would mean a majority voting against the EU in each of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island) for “Brexit” to occur, rather than a simple majority across the UK.
The manifesto made no specific promise of a future vote on Scottish independence from the UK, but last week Sturgeon suggested an exit from the EU against the wishes of Scottish voters might trigger another referendum.
While accepting the need for “effective immigration controls” the manifesto laid out the most pro-immigration stance taken by any of the main parties. The SNP called for immigration policies that “meet our economic needs” and for the re-introduction of post study work visas so that “those we have helped educate are able […] to make a contribution to our economy.”
The SNP wants clear exemptions for both the National Health Service and the publically owned Scottish Water from the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
Doing the electoral math
Sturgeon, who is a Member of the Scottish Parliament, isn’t standing for election to Westminster, and voters outside of Scotland will be unable to vote for the party. Despite this they look set to be the third largest party after the election on 7 May. As a result they could be a key player in post-election coalition talks.
Their manifesto made it clear they would not support a Conservative government instead offering to work with like-minded parties from across the UK. This means potentially forming a voting bloc with Plaid Cymru, of Wales, and the Greens, which would support a minority Labour government in a case by case basis.
— The SNP (@theSNP) April 20, 2015
In a televised debate last week Sturgeon made an offer to work with Labour “to keep out the Tories.”
Labour leader Ed Miliband rejected the overture saying his party didn’t “need help.” The latest polls suggest Labour could win around 270 seats and the SNP up to 50, which would still leave the grouping short of the 326 seats need for a majority in the House of Commons.
The Conservative party said SNP plans would lead to a massive increase in the national debt. They labelled the manifesto “the most expensive ransom note in history.” The Tories say any SNP-Labour deal will effectively give the SNP a veto on any legislation in the House of Commons.
The Scottish National Party have held a majority in the devolved Scottish parliament since 2011.
They campaigned for Scottish Independence in a referendum last September, but lost. Since then the SNP have seen their poll ratings increase and look set to be the third largest party in the next Westminster parliament, despite only putting forward candidates in Scotland.
The Conservatives have promised to hold a referendum on EU membership before the end of 2017 if they win on 7 May.
- 7 May: UK general election