The Scottish National Party’s (SNP) manifesto for the Scottish parliamentary elections will strengthen its reputation as a social democratic party.
Headline promises in the manifesto include increasing NHS funding by 20 percent, the creation of a National Care Service and the delivery of 100,000 affordable homes—by 2032. There was also a commitment to decarbonise the heating in a million homes—by 2030—and to bring Scotrail train operating company into public ownership.
And there were also promises around poverty, such as free school breakfast and lunches for pupils in state funded primary schools.
NHS dental charges will be abolished, starting with those aged between 18 to 26.
These proposals led to one commentator describing SNP first minister Nicola Sturgeon as having “the unhinged mindset of a Caledonian Jeremy Corbyn”.
But it's important to look at the detail.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the belief that there needs to be more funding of the NHS. But the Institute for Fiscal Studies calculates that the SNP’s proposals will lead to “a real-time increase of around 2.1 percent per year”.
This is less than the Tories are promising in England which is 3.4 percent.
Meanwhile, the SNP is pledging to freeze tax rates and bands. But without a progressive taxation policy which hammers the rich, it is difficult to understand how the SNP will deliver on its promises.
In other words, the vast majority of proposals are aspirational rather than a serious commitment.
And it also means those reforms that are carried forward could lead to cuts in other areas, which will almost certainly be in local councils.
The SNP first came to office in Scotland in 2007 as a minority government and then won a majority in 2011. They have been in control of the Scottish Parliament since then. There has been ample time for them to bring forward many of the proposed reforms.
Scotrail is only being brought into public ownership due to the abject failure of private firm Abellio to provide a proper rail service. And the National Care Service will not see an end to the disastrous private ownership of care homes in Scotland.
Many NHS workers in Scotland are furious with the Scottish government’s offer of a 4 percent pay rise. And lectures working in further education in Scotland will take little comfort from the budget as they face losing their jobs and being rehired as instructors with worse pay and conditions.
The manifesto also contains a commitment by the SNP to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence. Without a serious strategy to confront the British state, this promise is again best described as wishful thinking rather than a genuine attempt to bring independence.