Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP Manifesto launch speech
Welcome to the launch of the SNP manifesto for the 2019 general election.
These events are becoming quite a regular feature.
Which must be puzzling for people here in Scotland.
Five years ago during the independence referendum the leaders of the No campaign – made up of the Westminster parties – promised that if we voted No we would get “stability”.
But since then the Westminster parties have delivered not stability but constant chaos and three UK general elections.
The promise that if we said no to independence, Scotland would stay in the EU has been broken – and broken spectacularly.
The promise that it was just a scare story to suggest that Boris Johnson could be Prime Minister has been broken.
And the promise that Scotland would be treated as an equal partner in the UK has not just been broken, but shattered
The reality of Westminster control over Scotland is this:
A right-wing Tory government Scotland didn’t vote for.
A Prime Minister in Boris Johnson who is dangerous and unfit for office.
Tory cuts to the Scottish budget.
The NHS under threat from a Tory-Trump trade deal.
A power grab on the Scottish Parliament.
Children forced into poverty.
And a disastrous Brexit deal that will hit jobs, living standards and workers’ rights.
But there is worse to come.
Unless Boris Johnson is stopped this will just be the start.
Brexit is nowhere near being done.
The Tories have barely got going.
They haven’t even started trade talks.
Because of Johnson’s hard line position, there is every chance the UK will leave the EU without a trade deal next year.
That would be a catastrophe for jobs.
And even if he somehow avoids that, his dream deal will be a nightmare for Scotland.
It will take Scotland out of the Single Market – which is eight times the size of the UK alone – and out of the Customs Union, the world’s biggest trading block.
Compared with EU membership, that could cut Scotland’s national income by around £9 billion by the end of the next decade – that is equivalent to £1,600 per person
Environmental standards and workers’ rights will be at risk.
And as night follows day, the Tories will sell-out Scotland’s fishing industry.
The SNP – Scotland’s remain party – backs a new UK wide referendum on EU membership.
Jeremy Corbyn – incredibly – says he is neutral on the issue of leave or remain.
That means he is neutral on job losses, cuts to living standards and the erosion of our rights.
And of course – he will be happy to sit back and see Scotland taken out of the EU even if there is a majority for remain in Scotland but not in the UK as a whole.
The truth is Brexit will dominate Westminster politics for years and years to come.
And Scotland will pay a heavy price for the Tories’ Brexit obsession and for Labour’s neutrality – or to give it its proper description, Labour’s woeful lack of leadership.
So this election really matters.
The future of Scotland is on the line.
The opportunities for this and future generations are at stake.
We must not let Brexit rob our children’s future.
That means the kind of country we want to be is on the ballot paper.
At the heart of it all, I ask people in Scotland to consider this simple but fundamental question before you cast your vote:
Who should decide Scotland’s future – the people who live here or Boris Johnson?
A vote for the SNP on December 12 is a vote to escape Brexit.
It’s a vote to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.
And, crucially, it is a vote to deprive Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party of a majority.
In this election, the SNP is the challenger to the Tories in every single seat they hold.
The reality is this: in Scotland only a vote for the SNP can defeat the Tories.
By voting SNP we can lock the Tories out of office – but we can do that only by voting SNP.
After December 12 there is every chance the SNP will hold the balance of power at Westminster.
Unlike the Liberal Democrats we will never help the Tories into government.
But we will be prepared to talk to other parties about forming a progressive alliance.
Those parties are already looking to the SNP and to Scotland for inspiration
Many of the policies being promised in this election are already being delivered in Scotland by the SNP.
The SNP has already abolished tuition fees.
We’ve protected the NHS from creeping privatisation.
The SNP has not only protected free personal care for the elderly – we have now extended it to all age groups.
We’ve introduced free prescriptions.
We’ve set up a genuinely progressive tax system, which helps low paid and middle-income earners.
We’re setting up a National Investment Bank.
We’ve kept the water industry in public hands.
While the Tories have been cutting police numbers in England, we’ve increased the number of police officers by more than 1,000.
We’ve massively out-stripped the rest of the UK in social and council house building.
And we are helping with the cost of living.
The SNP is investing in a huge expansion of early learning and childcare for vulnerable 2 year olds and all 3 and 4 year olds.
This will be introduced in full next year, saving families up to £4,500 per child, per year.
With limited powers we have also established a social security system with dignity and fairness at its heart.
We’re introducing a new £10 a week Scottish Child Payment for low income households by the end of next year – it will lift 30,000 children out of poverty when fully implemented.
So in government, the SNP is not just talking about transforming our country for the better.
We’re doing it every day.
This manifesto builds on that and it sets out how the power, experience and values of the SNP can put Scotland’s interests front and centre in a progressive alliance to lock the Tories out of government at Westminster.
It includes a clear demand for an end to austerity and a three point proposal to increase Scotland’s budget.
Firstly, for the National Health Service.
In government, we have shown our commitment, in difficult financial circumstances, to the NHS.
Despite Tory cuts, since 2010 we’ve increased frontline health funding by 13 per cent in real terms with more to come.
In Scotland the SNP is spending £136 more per head on frontline health services than in England.
This amounts to over £740 million more spending in Scotland, compared to the UK.
Now, given our rural population, there should always be higher per capita spend in Scotland.
However, if the next UK government raised health spending per head to the current Scottish level, it would not only substantially increase health investment in England, it would mean that by 2024/25 frontline investment in NHS Scotland would be £4 billion higher than it is today.
Second – there must be a real end to austerity.
The Tories, with the help of the Liberal Democrats, have left the Scottish budget £1.5 billion lower in real-terms than it was at the start of the decade.
A potential UK government that wants our support must reverse that cut to our budget and ensure real terms growth thereafter.
And third – the UK must make right the cuts Scotland has suffered.
Over a decade of austerity, the cumulative price imposed on Scotland has been a massive £13.9 billion.
That’s how much investment in our communities and public services Scotland has lost.
And the cost in human terms has been worse.
That must be made right.
A party seeking our support must be prepared to set out how they will repair the damage of a decade of austerity and put back money that has been lost.
When the Tory government needed a handful of votes from the DUP, they by-passed the Barnett Formula to find money for Northern Ireland, and in the process denied Scotland around £3 billion per year of investment.
We say enough. It’s time for Scotland to be treated fairly.
In any post-election talks the SNP will also demand that Scotland’s NHS be protected from trade deals.
We will introduce an NHS Protection Bill.
This will guarantee that trade deals will not undermine the founding principles of the NHS, nor open it to profit driven exploitation
And as a double-lock, it will stipulate that no trade deal could come into force without the consent of the Scottish Parliament.
Be in no doubt – a vote for the SNP is a vote to stop the Tories selling off Scotland’s NHS.
SNP MPs will also demand an end to policies that are pushing people into poverty, debt and desperation.
That means the two child cap on tax credits and associated rape clause must go.
There must be an end to the punitive benefit sanctions regime, the benefits freeze and a halt to Universal Credit.
We will also stand up for fairer pensions. We will protect the triple lock and demand justice for WASPI women
The social security system is an expression of solidarity.
It helps those who are working hard but who struggle to make ends meet.
The SNP will not sit by and watch it torn apart.
In government, with the powers we have, the SNP has been helping parents and families with a special emphasis on the all important early years.
The baby box, for example, provides practical help, but it is also a symbol of our values and of the kind of country we are seeking to build.
It demonstrates that, as a society, we value each and every child in Scotland.
The current system of maternity leave fails the social justice test.
It is unfair and works against those on the lowest incomes. It also means that parents, mainly mothers, often lose out on pension provision.
We want to change that.
Emulating policies successfully introduced in Nordic countries and, in particular, Iceland, we will propose legislation to increase paid maternity and paternity leave, and increase shared parental leave by 12 weeks to 64 weeks.
The additional weeks will be specifically for fathers to encourage an increase in paternal leave.
That would support mothers returning to work and it has been shown to help fathers spend more time with their children after paternity leave has ended.
With the powers of independence we would have the ability to bring this into force.
At Westminster we will use our influence to press for these measures to be introduced.
This kind of policy is the hallmark of the SNP’s approach to government: practical action to improve people’s lives as we build the fairer society we know is possible.
On the climate emergency Scotland has the world’s most ambitious emissions reductions targets, already enshrined in law.
We are already generating in Scotland three quarters of our electricity from renewables.
Using our influence, SNP MPs will demand the UK matches Scotland’s ambition, meets its Paris Climate Agreement responsibilities and sticks to future EU emissions standards.
We will propose a Green Energy Deal that will ensure green energy schemes get the long-term certainty needed to support investment.
The UK Office for Budget Responsibility estimate that oil and gas revenues will be worth £8.5 billion over the five years to 2023-24.
That revenue – the vast bulk of it from Scotland – should be put to work in building the transition to a greener, sustainable future.
We are proposing the ring-fencing of oil and gas receipts, creating a Net Zero Fund, to help pay for the energy transition through investment in areas such as renewable energy, electric vehicles and carbon capture utilisation and storage.
And because the communities that currently host the oil and gas industry cannot be left behind in the necessary transition away from fossil fuels, we will demand that 12% of the fund – at least £1 billion over 5 years – will go to a Net Zero Industrial Strategy to help diversify the economies of oil hubs like Aberdeen, Falkirk and Shetland.
Labour wants to impose an additional £11 billion windfall tax on Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas industry.
Which shows that for the Westminster parties nothing really changes.
Since the discovery of North Sea oil the UK Treasury has pocketed more than £340 billion in revenues.
While independent Norway has set up an investment fund now worth 1 trillion dollars, Labour and Tory Westminster governments have left Scotland with nothing.
They claim that Scotland is not good enough or rich enough to be independent.
But when they need to balance the UK books they always seem to find billions of pounds of Scottish resources to do the job for them.
Let me suggest a better way.
It’s been estimated that the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons could cost more than £200 billion.
That is a colossal waste of money. And weapons of mass destruction are immoral.
A key SNP demand for our support will be the removal of Trident from Scotland and the saving of billions of pounds to be invested instead in our public services.
Until such time as Scotland is independent, we will also seek more powers for the Scottish Parliament.
In particular, we want to see devolution of drugs policy, to help tackle what is a public health emergency.
And we will press for the devolution of employment law so that the Scottish Parliament can protect workers’ rights, increase the living wage and end the age
discrimination of the statutory living wage.
A vote for the SNP is therefore a vote to reverse austerity and to protect our NHS.
It is a vote for action on climate change, for a fairer country and for more powers for the Scottish Parliament.
But in this election Scotland, as has happened so often, is facing a democratic deficit.
Brexit is just the latest – albeit extreme – example.
The Tories last won a general election in Scotland in 1955.
In the last 60 years, there have been 16 UK general elections.
The Tories in Scotland haven’t won a single one of these. Not one.
And yet for 36 of those 60 years Scotland has endured Tory governments we did not vote for.
That is a democratic outrage and that must change.
Enough is enough.
By voting SNP we in Scotland can do our bit to get the Tories out.
But as we have learned from bitter experience, as long as we are governed by Westminster our future can be imposed upon us.
It’s time to take Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands.
People are increasingly sick of hearing Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson talking about “not allowing” the Scottish people to choose our own future.
The fact is it’s not up to them. Indeed, it’s not up to me either.
It is a decision for the people of Scotland and for the Scottish Parliament.
The democratically elected Scottish Parliament has agreed that people in Scotland should be given a choice over their future.
An unelected Tory Westminster government has no right to overturn that decision.
An SNP victory in this election would be a clear instruction from the people of Scotland to respect Scottish democracy.
So in this election vote SNP to send the strongest message to Westminster and to Boris Johnson: there must be no Westminster veto over the right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future.
The SNP’s message to any Westminster party seeking our support is this: if you cannot support this most fundamental of democratic principles, the SNP cannot support you.
Scotland is at a crossroads.
We are facing two futures.
In one future we will be governed by Boris Johnson and taken out of the EU against our will.
We will be at the mercy of an increasingly right-wing Tory party that will let nothing get in the way of their extreme Brexit vision.
The right-wingers who are running the show want to abandon EU standards, they want to cut Scotland’s share of UK government spending and they have shown they will trample all over devolution if it gets in the way of Brexit.
People in Scotland have the right to consider an alternative future.
One in which Scotland’s future is in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s.
A future with Scotland as an equal partner with our closest friends in the rest of the UK and with the EU.
In an independent Scotland we will always get the governments we vote for.
The NHS will always be protected from a Tory-Trump trade deal.
Decisions about taxation and social security will be made by the Scottish Parliament.
We will have a migration policy tailored to Scotland’s needs.
There could never be a rape clause or a bedroom tax forced on the people of Scotland against their will.
Scotland is a country of extraordinary talent and resources.
We are already one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
We are rich in renewable energy.
We have a world-class food and drink sector.
Our tourism industry is booming.
We are a world leader in cutting-edge industries of the future.
We have more top universities per head than any other country, bar one.
We can be confident that a better future for Scotland is possible.
We don’t have to put up with Brexit and the Westminster mess.
We don’t have to put up with Tory governments we don’t vote for.
We have the power at this election to change all that.
So to people across Scotland – wherever you are, whatever your background, wherever you’ve come from, and however you have voted in the past, let’s join together.
Let’s stand up for our right to choose a better future.
At this election I am asking you to vote SNP to escape Brexit.
Vote SNP to lock Boris Johnson’s Tories out of office.
Vote SNP to take power into your own hands – the hands of the people of Scotland.
Vote SNP so that, together, we can build a better Scotland.