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UK General Election 2015

General Election 2015: Manifesto Launch – Full Speech

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish National Party

I am proud today to publish the SNP’s manifesto for the General Election on May 7th.

This is a manifesto to make Scotland stronger at Westminster.

The pledge I make today to the Scottish people is this.

If you vote SNP on May 7th, we will make your voice heard more loudly than ithas ever been heard before at Westminster.

We will stand up for Scotland’s interests and always fight your corner.

Our job is to serve you and we will do it at Westminster – just as we do in theScottish Parliament – to the very best of our ability.

That is my promise to Scotland.

But I also want to make a pledge today to people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Even though you can’t vote SNP, your views do matter to me.

And you have a right to know what to expect of my party if the votes of the Scottish people give us influence in a hung parliament.

So my promise to you is this.

If the SNP emerges from this election in a position of influence, we willexercise that influence responsibly and constructively.

And we will exercise it in the interests of people, not just in Scotland, but across the UK.

For as long as Scotland remains part of the Westminster system, we have ashared interest with you in making that system work better for all of us – for the many, not the few.

We will not do any deals that would put the Tories into power – indeed, if thereis an anti-Tory majority after May 7th, we will vote to stop a new Tory government even getting off the ground.

But we will then seek to use our influence to make a Labour government bolder and better.

We will seek to make common cause and build alliances with others of like mind across the UK to deliver the progressive change that so many want to see.

And we will bring to that task eight years experience of government – of successful, effective and stable government.

It was, after all, as a minority government in Scotland that the SNP restored free education, abolished prescription charges and froze the council tax.

We will use that experience in a minority led House of Commons to advance progressive policies that will benefit people in all parts of the UK.

So to everyone who, like me, wants this election to herald the real and positive change that will make life better for ordinary people across these islands, I hold out a hand of friendship.

The SNP – if we are given the chance – will be your allies in making that change.

The manifesto we publish today sets out our priorities for progressive change.

It is a manifesto, above all else, to end austerity. That will be our number one priority.

It is time to end the needless pain of Tory cuts.

In the last five years, austerity has undermined our public services, lowered the living standards of working people, pushed more children into poverty and held back economic growth.

It hasn’t even succeeded on its own terms – over the last parliament, the Chancellor missed all of his own fiscal targets.

When a policy is failing, it is time to change it.

That is why we are putting forward a clear alternative to the further spending cuts proposed by the Tories and Labour.

We want to see modest spending increases – the equivalent of increasing departmental spending by 0.5% above inflation – in each year of the next parliament.

Under our proposal, the deficit and the national debt would still fall each year.

But a slightly slower path to eliminating the deficit completely will allow at least £140 billion extra to be invested in infrastructure and support for business, in protecting our public services, and in policies that will help to lift people out of poverty.

We will also back fair proposals to raise extra revenue. It’s right that those with the broadest shoulders pay a little bit more. That’s why we will back the restoration of the 50p tax rate for the highest earners, a mansion tax and a bankers’ bonus tax.

And when money is so tight, we believe it to be all the more important that we use our voice and our votes to make sure that we don’t squander scarce resources on new nuclear weapons.

We will seek to build an alliance in the House of Commons against the renewal of Trident and we will vote for the £100 billion that would be saved to be invested instead in education, better childcare, and the NHS.

Our plans – for modest spending increases, fair taxes and setting the right priorities for spending – will mean that we can invest in growing our economy and strengthening our society.

It will mean that we can give the NHS the funding it needs. Over the past week, Labour has failed to commit to the money England’s NHS needs.

And while the Tories have given a commitment, they have no idea where the money is coming from.

Increasing health spending while cutting overall spending by £30 billion, as the Tories plan to do, will mean even more savage cuts to social care, social security and local government – all of which will pile extra pressure on the NHS.

Both Labour and Tories are selling the NHS short.

Our plans mean that we – the SNP – can make this clear commitment to the NHS across the whole of the UK

We will vote for an increase in health spending across the UK of £24 billion by 2020/21 – £9.5 billion above inflation.

That will deliver a total increase to the budget of NHS Scotland of £2 billion by 2020/21 – and it will ensure that our NHS enters the next decade fully equipped for the challenges it faces.

I also give a commitment today that SNP MPs – in order to protect Scotland’s budget – will vote against any further privatisation of the NHS in England and we will back any moves to restore it to a fully public service.

Our plans will also mean more investment in housing.

There is a substantial shortfall of affordable homes for rent across the UK.

The Scottish Government is on track to meet our commitment to 30,000 new affordable homes in the five years to 2016, but more needs to be done.

We will push for a UK wide house building target of at least 100,000 new affordable homes a year and use the extra investment to expand house building here in Scotland.

Building more homes not only meets a vital social need – it is also good for the construction industry, for jobs and for the economy as a whole.

And to support faster economic growth, we will press for a cut in employers’ National Insurance Contributions. We want to see the Employment Allowance increased from £2,000 to £6,000 over the next 4 years to help smaller firms take on and retain additional staff – and support them in paying the living wage.

It is measures like these that will help us grow the economy and create jobs.

But we must also make sure that work pays.

SNP MPs will vote to increase the minimum wage to £8.70 by 2020.

We will support action to crack down on zero hours contracts.

And we will press the UK government to follow the lead of the Scottish Government and become a living wage employer.

We will vote for measures to tackle the rising tide of poverty, including in-work poverty, that is a direct result of the policies of austerity.

We will oppose the £3 billion cut in disability support that threatens to cut the incomes of one million disabled people by more than £1000 a year.

We will support an increase in Carers’Allowance.

We will vote to retain the triple lock on pensions and protect the winter fuel allowance.

We will support increases in tax credits and child benefit at least in line with inflation, to avoid more children falling into poverty.

And we will vote for the immediate abolition of the bedroom tax.

Abolishing the bedroom tax would mean that the £35 million a year that the Scottish government spends to mitigate its impact would be available to spendon other priorities.

We would spend that money on measures to tackle – and eventually eradicate – the food poverty that is such a scandal in our rich country.

All of the policies that SNP MPs will champion at Westminster are about building a stronger economy and a fairer society.

That is also what drives our support for a more empowered Scottish Parliament.

The SNP will always support independence – but this election is not about independence.

It is about making Scotland stronger.

So we will use the influence of SNP votes at Westminster to ensure that promises made during the referendum are delivered.

We will demand that the proposals of the Smith Commission are delivered quickly and in full and we will oppose any effort to undermine devolution.

We will seek agreement that the Scottish Parliament should move to full financial responsibility.

And as part of a phased transition, we will prioritise early devolution of powers over employment policy, including the minimum wage, welfare, business taxes, national insurance and equality policy – the powers we need here in Scotland to create jobs, grow revenues and lift people out of poverty.

These are the priorities that we will carry into this election and beyond.

Priorities to make life better for ordinary people, not just in Scotland, but across the UK.

A real alternative to austerity, a higher minimum wage, protection for our NHS, action to boost growth in our economy and a determination to tackle the poverty that blights too many lives.

This is a manifesto bursting with ideas and ambition.

It is a manifesto, first and foremost, for Scotland. But it has real relevance – and can bring real benefits – to the whole of the UK.

A vote for this SNP manifesto on May 7th will make Scotland’s voice heard at Westminster more strongly than it has ever been before.

And a stronger voice for Scotland will mean a stronger voice for new, better and more progressive politics at Westminster – for everyone.

My vow is to make Scotland stronger at Westminster.

With your support, we can secure a better future for you, your family and Scotland.