Who should decide our country’s future, the people of Scotland or Boris Johnson’s Tories?
This is the most important election in Scotland’s history.
So much hangs on its outcome, but at its heart it comes down to one very simple question – who should decide our country’s future?
Should it be a Scottish Government at Holyrood, elected by the people of Scotland – or should it be Boris Johnson and the Tories at Westminster?
The last few days have shown us just how important that question is and just how much it matters.
That’s because the last few days have shown everyone the respective priorities of Holyrood and Westminster – and when it comes to how different those priorities are it is not so much a gulf as a vast and ever widening chasm.
In Scotland, the SNP Government has made our priorities clear, with a four per cent pay offer to NHS staff – people who are deserving at the best of times but who, over the last 12 months, have truly gone above and beyond the call of duty as they have battled on the front line of the Covid pandemic to try to keep us all safe.
At the same time, Boris Johnson’s Tory government has not only failed, so far at least, to come anywhere near matching that pay offer for health service staff – they have almost gone out of their way to show how different their priorities are.
How else can anyone explain the bizarre and frankly grotesque decision to lift the cap on the UK’s stockpile of nuclear warheads.
At a time when the world should be looking to solve common problems and challenges like climate chance and recovery from the pandemic, the Tories are intent on rolling the clock back 30 years or more to a Cold War mentality.
So while they claim to be struggling to find the money to pay nurses, they have no qualms about spending billions of pounds on the obscenity of new nuclear weapons of mass destruction – weapons which will be stored right here in Scotland, barely 40 miles from our biggest city and centre of population.
Boris Johnson’s priorities are clearly not Scotland’s priorities.
But this election can be the one in which Scotland, overwhelmingly and decisively, shows that it is choosing a better path for all our futures.
Over the coming weeks, the SNP will set out the most positive, upbeat and optimistic case ever made for the future of this country.
It will be brimming over with policies, ideas and initiatives for how we rebuild from the pandemic and create a fairer, more prosperous nation.
Policies like John Swinney’s plan to put a laptop or Chromebook in the hands of every pupil in Scotland’s schools. Just as teachers used to hand out jotters to all, in the years to come, every pupil will receive the device they need, putting the internet in the hands of every pupil, in class and at home.
Over the last couple of days we have already started to outline some of that vision.
On Friday, as I addressed local government leaders in COSLA, I confirmed that one of the first acts of a re-elected SNP Government will be to begin work on a National Care Service.
I also made clear that we plan to scrap charges for non-residential care, to help ease the financial pressure on those accessing care. And we will bring in a National Wage for carers so that the value of the pay received by our social care workforce better reflects the huge value of the work they do.
Meanwhile, we have announced that if re-elected we will deliver 100,000 new homes across Scotland in the next decade.
We have already delivered nearly 100,000 homes since 2007, but our plan for the next 10 years seeks to double that, in a move that will support up to 14,000 jobs a year as we rebuild from the pandemic and generate investment of around £16 billion.
That makes our plan the largest home building and investment programme since the start of devolution – and at least 70 per cent of the new homes will be for social rent.
We’ll also introduce a new single standard for housing quality to help make sure homes are more energy efficient, more spacious and of better quality overall.
These are just some of the policy ideas we are bringing to this campaign – but as I said, at its heart this election is about who gets to decide Scotland’s future.
If re-elected, an SNP Government will take forward plans for an independence referendum, and if those plans have the backing of a majority of MSPs at Holyrood then we propose a referendum should be held once we are through the pandemic.
The question of who is in charge of the rebuilding that is needed is a crucial one – and independence means we can focus on priorities like homes, health and education and not the wasteful priorities of Boris Johnson.
To make that happen we need the strongest possible SNP vote – that means giving both votes to the SNP on May 6th.