THE SNP has put Scottish independence at the heart of its General Election manifesto. 

First Minister and Party Leader John Swinney fulfilled the promise both he and his predecessor Humza Yousaf made by putting the push for independence on the first page of the party’s manifesto, which was launched in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

The document states: "Vote SNP for Scotland to become an independent country."

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The party’s position is to seek to give "democratic effect" to the will of the Scottish people if the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats at Westminster, which Mr Swinney said on Wednesday means negotiating for another referendum to be held.

There is “no other way” to get to independence than through the ballot box, the First Minister added, saying: “We must never lose faith in the power of the democratic voice of the people of Scotland.”

But with polls suggesting Labour could be pulling ahead of the SNP, he refused to say what losing its majority would mean for the independence movement.

In his speech to activists and journalists, Swinney said: “Never let anyone tell you that independence is separate from people’s daily lives and concerns.

“It is fundamental to those lives and concerns.

“It is about where decisions about Scotland are made, decisions over our economy, our health service, our living standards.”

Swinney said his party is not seeking “independence for its own sake”.

He continued: “Independence for the powers to protect our NHS and to help people through tough times. Independence for a stronger economy and happier, healthier lives. Independence for a better future for Scotland – made in Scotland – for Scotland.”

A delegate holds a copy of the manifesto book during the party's General Election manifesto launch at Patina in Edinburgh. Picture date: Wednesday June 19, 2024.A delegate holds a copy of the manifesto book during the party's General Election manifesto launch at Patina in Edinburgh. Picture date: Wednesday June 19, 2024. (Image: PA)

The SNP vowed to table a Bill to protect the NHS from privatisation, as well as to urge the next UK government to invest £10 billion in the health service – meaning £1 billion in consequentials in Scotland.

The manifesto also calls on the next government to match NHS pay deals reached by the Scottish Government, bringing a further £1.6 billion to Scotland.

The manifesto calls for employment rights and powers over the minimum wage to be devolved to Scotland, so zero hours contracts can be scrapped – a pledge also made by Labour – and the minimum wage can be increased to the level of the national living wage and then raised in line with inflation.

Paid maternity leave should also be increased to one year, with shared parental leave upped to 64 weeks with at least 12 weeks to be taken by the father on a “use it or lose it basis”.

SNP MPs will demand the “full devolution” of tax powers, including over national insurance, which the manifesto states will mean the Scottish Government can “ensure rates and thresholds fit with our progressive income tax rates”.

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The party will also seek to widen the current windfall tax to include companies outside the energy sector, as well as crack down on tax evasion and avoidance and improve transparency for international companies.

The SNP has already said it will support Labour plans to bring in VAT for private schools, but the manifesto vows the Scottish Government will reform the levy, reducing it in hospitality and tourism and scrapping it altogether for on-street electric vehicle charging.

The two-child cap should be scrapped, the party said, along with the bedroom tax.

The manifesto said the young parent penalty in universal credit should also be binned and the cut to pension credit reversed, along with a drive to maximise the uptake of the pension top-up scheme.

The current fiscal rules, the party said, should be scrapped and replaced with three new ones.

Infrastructure investments should be subject to a net worth test, which looks at the value it could bring to the public rather than just the cost to the Exchequer, while spending plans should be made in three-year cycles to improve forward planning, and there should be an upper limit on debt servicing costs.

The next UK government should also bring forward an immediate emergency budget to “reverse cuts to public spending and deliver meaningful investment in economic growth, including green energy”, the party said.

The cut to the Scottish Government’s capital budget should also be reversed, the manifesto said.

And the manifesto also makes it clear the UK should rejoin the EU.

Such a move would resume freedom of movement, the party said, while also easing trade, make Scotland safer by improving relations with European law enforcement, resume access to the Erasmus-plus student exchange programme, and allow access to workers from across the EU.