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by Louise Wilson
29 April 2021
More in common: what can shared aspirations tell us about the next parliament?

More in common: what can shared aspirations tell us about the next parliament?

Election campaigns are naturally dominated by the yawning divides as politicians jostle to capture the public’s attention – and votes. But a look at where parties agree can provide clues as to what to expect from the next Scottish Parliament, regardless of its political make-up.

Holyrood takes a closer look at where parties overlap.

More cash for the NHS

All parties have committed to supporting the NHS following the huge pressures of the last year. This broadly means an increase in funding.

The SNP has committed to an extra £2.5bn for the NHS frontline, while the Conservatives say they will provide an extra £2bn at least. While Labour, the Greens and Lib Dems have not provided figures, all have made pledges which will require extra cash – whether that’s a pay rise for staff, improving social care or simply dealing with the growing backlog.

In addition, all parties have committed to increasing the share of the health budget going to mental health. The SNP, Conservatives and Greens want to see 10 per cent of the frontline budget directed there, Labour say 11 per cent, while the Lib Dems say 15 per cent of new health spending.

However, the economic thinktank Institute for Fiscal Studies said in its recent analysis of the three main parties’ manifestos that they had seriously underestimated the amount the NHS will need in the coming years. To meet this need, the thinktank said, it is likely that other pledges may not be met. Whatever happens, more cash for the NHS will be a necessity.

Youth job guarantee

As Scotland looks to recover from the pandemic, parties have recognised a big part of this will be tackling rising unemployment, particularly youth unemployment.

All but the Conservatives have committed to funding a jobs guarantee for young people, matching all 16 to 25 year-olds with either a job, a training opportunity or an educational placement. The Greens would like to see this expanded to under 30s. So, it seems highly likely the Young Person’s Guarantee extolled by Sandy Begbie (who led a similar Edinburgh-based scheme before authoring a report for the Scottish Government on how a Scotland-wide approach should work) will go ahead.

The Tories, for their part, have committed to providing every adult in Scotland with £500 for the purpose of retraining and reskilling.

Freebies for kids

Year-round universal free school meals have been pledged by all parties in a bid to tackle child poverty, as has the doubling of the new Scottish Child Payment to £20 a week. This will therefore almost certainly come about.

In addition, four of the parties have committed to expand the provision of free early learning and childcare after 1,140 hours is rolled out in August. The disagreement is on how to do this.

The SNP and Lib Dems have committed to expanding eligibility so all parents of one and two-year-olds can benefit from the 1,140 hours. The SNP also said it would ensure childcare was available both before and after school, a pledge made by the Conservatives too.

Labour has said it will increase the offering to 50 hours per week (1,140 hours per year is equivalent to 30 hours a week).

The Greens are the only party who stand slightly apart on the issue, instead calling for the creation of a kindergarten stage for three to six year-olds after raising the school starting age to seven. This would effectively replace the current 1,140 hours offer.

Rights of sexual assault victims

The days of the three-verdict system may be numbered, as the Conservatives, Labour and the Greens all commit to abolishing the ‘not proven’ verdict. Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon has said it was “time to look at” whether the verdict still has a place on the Scots justice system. It is a move Rape Crisis Scotland have been calling for, as the verdict is disproportionately used in rape cases.

However, the SNP manifesto only commits to a review “in recognition of the strong case that can be made for abolition”. With a survey of lawyers carried out by the Open University finding a majority wanted to keep the verdict, the end of not proven is not guaranteed.

But all the five main parties are supportive of creating a legal right to anonymity for victims. While typically the press does not name victims, this is by convention rather than law (unless the court explicitly calls for it) so enshrining this right would improve protection. It is highly likely the next parliament will legislate on this.

Coronavirus inquiry

An inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is inevitable. All parties have backed it in some form.

The Lib Dems have called for it to start on “day one” of the new term, while the SNP pledges to establish it “as soon as possible after the election”. The Labour and Greens have also called for a general inquiry into the government’s approach, while the Conservatives have said there must be an “urgent inquiry” into care home deaths.

Read the most recent article written by Louise Wilson - Sketch: Ceci n’est pas une nightclub

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