The SNP’s manifesto was released at the end of last week and is available to read here: https://www.snp.org/manifesto/
It is a bold response to the greatest crisis our generation has faced and it promises to change many lives for the better. It is also packed full of measures that will benefit folk in Shetland.
From £1bn of further investments for schools, additional teachers and classroom assistants, to a 25% boost for direct investment in Mental Health services, to at least 20% more funding for NHS frontline services: it is clear the SNP are committed to high quality public services, kept in public hands.
There are many measures that will be of special value to us here in Shetland, such as free music lessons in schools, a £25m fund to help tourism recover and the £20m Rural Entrepreneur Fund providing grants of up to £10K to support local businesses. Shetland families will also benefit directly from:
- A commitment to provide every child with a device to get online, including free internet and help to use it for learning;
- A programme to build 100,000 new homes by 2032 (70% of them social housing);
- A policy to decarbonise the heating of a million homes by 2030;
- Doubling the Scottish Child payment to £20 a week;
- Free NHS dental care;
- Free bikes for children whose families couldn’t otherwise afford them.
The manifesto is packed with progressive policies for our country and I hope to do further blogs on different aspects of it, but I wanted to note a few of the proposals that are of most interest:
- The creation of a National Care Service
The pandemic has made us all more aware of the parts of our economy that help and nurture people and communities. I know from my own family’s experience just how critical this sector is to helping people live with dignity and as much independence as possible. The importance of care in our islands has never been more evident than during Covid-19: our carers have shown an incredible commitment to keeping people safe in such a challenging time, and it’s in light of this that the SNP has committed to establishing a National Care Service.
This seeks to improve the pay and conditions for care workers and provide better support for unpaid carers, introducing a National Wage for care staff and entering into national pay bargaining for the sector, based on fair work principles, as well as strengthening residents’ rights in adult residential care. This can only be done by increasing funding, and so we’ve promised to increase public investment in social care by 25 per cent over the next parliament. In Shetland we already have many care homes of a very high standard and this new proposal does not mean that all care homes will be owned or run by the Scottish Government: the aim is to improve standards, pay, training and accountability as we integrate health and social care services.
- Keeping wealth local
The ongoing crisis has been really hard for high streets. Supporting our local economy will be crucial to Shetland’s recovery. We’ve already seen incredible efforts by the community to help Shetland’s local businesses and the wider local economy.
To support this, the SNP will build on the recent Scotland Loves Local campaign, which supports piloting local loyalty schemes, as well as a new £10 million fund to revitalise high streets hit hard by Covid-19. On top of this, we’ll introduce legislation to build wealth in local communities, looking actively at how public authorities can buy more goods and services from local businesses, to ensure money is reinvested in communities. Additionally, we’ll review the Community Empowerment Act to put more power in the hands of people and communities – something of particular importance to rural island communities like ours, see my previous blog on this here: More powers for our communities – Tom Wills Shetland Campaign (tomwills4shetland.org)
- Safe, warm, affordable, green homes
A warm, safe, affordable home is something everyone should have, which means investing in and expanding social housing and affordable homes. The SNP has set an ambitious target of 100,000 affordable homes by 2032, with £3.5 billion of investment during the next parliament, supporting 14,000 jobs a year throughout Scotland. To tackle depopulation and support communities, we’re also giving local authorities powers to manage the number of second homes in their area – a topic I mentioned previously here: Housing – Tom Wills Shetland Campaign (tomwills4shetland.org).
As well as securing good, affordable homes, we also need to upgrade our housing so we can help to tackle the climate crisis. Decarbonising heating can also help to reduce fuel poverty – a vital issue in rural communities like ours – and create local jobs. We’ve promised to decarbonise the heating of a million homes by 2030 during the next parliament.
Putting our manifesto into practice is going to be a lot of work, and we need everyone’s support to get it off the ground. Every vote counts. I would encourage voters in Shetland to give both your votes to SNP, to ensure we have the democratic support to deliver on our manifesto commitments.