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by Jenni Davidson
16 April 2021
‘Tricky trade-offs’ required to pay for SNP manifesto commitments, IFS warns

Nicola Sturgeon launching the SNP manifesto - Image credit: Alamy

‘Tricky trade-offs’ required to pay for SNP manifesto commitments, IFS warns

“Tricky trade-offs” would be required to pay for the SNP manifesto commitments, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has warned.

The think tank said the “significant pledges” would expand service provision or increase take-home pay of a number of groups in Scotland, including low-income families with children.

But it said it was “disappointing” that the manifesto does not provide information about what the commitments would cost.

New pledges in the manifesto include free dental treatment, expanding free childcare to one and two-year-olds, year round free breakfasts and lunches for all primary-aged schoolchildren, doubling the Scottish Child Payment, abolishing charges for non-residential social care and exempting 18-21-year-olds from paying council tax.

These are to be delivered without increasing income tax.

The IFS said the list of policies “clearly has a significant net cost” and “paying for that in the context of what will likely be a tight fiscal environment in the coming parliament would require tricky trade-offs”.

This would mean either tax rises or cuts to at least some other areas of public spending.

The SNP’s aim of not increasing income tax and plans to cut business rates “could make this an especially difficult circle to square”, it says.

David Phillips, an associate director at the IFS, said: “The SNP’s manifesto continues with a trend of greater universality in public service provision – providing services free to everyone, rather than using means-testing to focus support on those with the lowest incomes.

“The plans set out would also mean substantial gains for certain groups of households: many families with, particularly younger, children; households that would benefit from the exemption of all 18 to 21-year-olds from council tax; and those paying for home care, for example.

“Paying for all of these pledges in what could be a tight funding environment over the next few years will require tricky trade-offs though tax rises or spending cuts in at least some other areas.

“The tougher fiscal situation an independent Scotland would face in at least its first few years would make the challenge of delivering these commitments even harder.”

Read the most recent article written by Jenni Davidson - The Holyrood baby: More likely to live in poverty now than the day she was born

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