Last up in our run through the UK General Election manifestos is the SNP. The launch of the formal manifesto was postponed from last week following the terrorist atrocity in Manchester.
SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon used her manifesto launch speech to talk up the prospects for Scotland, while downplaying references to holding a second independence referendum. She said:
Supporting our economy is vital to everything we do. We live in a world where technological and economic transformation is happening at a pace we haven’t seen before. We have the potential in Scotland, more than most countries on earth, to take advantage of the opportunity this change presents.
But she – and the manifesto itself – struck an emphatic anti-Brexit line:
The European Single Market, already the world’s biggest, represents a massive opportunity for these areas of Scottish strength: in the digital economy, the services sector, energy, retail, the green and knowledge economy, the single market is still a work in progress, with huge potential still to be unlocked.
That means a huge, potential economic prize for Scotland. It means a world of opportunity for our young people. But Brexit – especially an extreme Brexit – puts all of that at risk.
With Brexit negotiations due to begin shortly after the 8 June election, the SNP wants to see the question of skilled immigration addressed. The manifesto promises continues support for a post-study work visa and “ straightforward access to permanent residence”.
But it wants a clean break from the UK’s immigration policy:
Our vision of Scotland is one of an open country that looks outwards, and encourages the best and brightest from Europe, and around the world, to make Scotland their home.
Scotland needs an immigration policy suited to our specific circumstances and needs. Scotland needs people to want to work here, in our businesses, our universities and in our public services. The current UK one-size-fits-all approach to immigration is failing Scotland.
The SNP will continue to seek devolution of immigration powers so that Scotland can have an immigration policy that works for our economy and society.
On the subject of the post-Brexit status of EU citizens currently living in the UK, the SNP says:
Throughout the Brexit process the UK government has treated EU nationals living in the UK as bargaining chips. It is shameful, and it must end. SNP MPs will continue to press the UK government to confirm the rights of EU nationals to remain as a matter of urgency. We expect the rights of UK nationals living in the EU to be guaranteed in the same way.
The Nats are also committed to trying to kill off the Skills Levy, which the Conservative Party is committed to continuing and increasing:
The UK government recently introduced a Skills Immigration Charge – a charge for employers, including the public sector, of £1,000 per non-EEA worker per year. This fee will lead to skills shortages, harm our economy and remove funding from frontline public services. We oppose this policy and remain concerned that the UK government will implement a similar charge for workers from the EU post-Brexit. SNP MPs will oppose any such moves, and press for the charge to be scrapped altogether.
The Single Market
The SNP line here is that it wants Scotland to remain in the Single Market. With the Tories and Labour both open to or resigned to leaving that, how the SNP will deliver on this remains unclear, but the manifesto reiterates Sturgeon’s frequent insistence that she has a seat at the negotiating table:
We will hold the Tories to account, making sure they cannot trade away Scotland’s industries in Brexit negotiations. We will fight for Single Market membership. And we will demand new powers, so we can continue to encourage the best and brightest from around the world to make Scotland their home, and contribute to our economy and society.
But in terms of bringing inward investment to Scotland, there’s some bad news:
We will not support further reductions to Corporation Tax.
The Scottish Parliament signed off on spending £400 million to deliver superfast broadband to 95% of properties across Scotland by the end of this year and the SNP argues that this ambition is on track. It’s now commiting to the remaining five percent getting the same benefits by 2021.
The manifesto takes credit for the SNP getting the Westminster government to guarantee a Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband of 10Mbps. As this was widely derided as a baseline and put in the Digital Economy Act despite House of Lords protests, this may not be such a great boast. But the manifesto promises that:
In the next parliamentary term SNP MPs will call for the USO to cover up to 30Mbps with an appropriate update mechanism to ensure that rural areas are not left behind.
On the subject of mobile coverage, there’s an acknowledgement of a problem, but no concrete plans to tackle ‘not spots’ beyond setting up a meeting:
SNP MPs will support the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity to host a summit on mobile “not spots”, inviting service providers and the UK government to put forward concrete actions for improving mobile connectivity across Scotland.
It also wants Westminster to:
provide appropriate support and resources for Scotland’s Mobile Action Plan and also to ensure that Scotland does not miss out on access to EU wide regulation in future, including plans to improve and increase fixed and mobile connectivity throughout the EU.
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