Alison Christie, Policy & Development Officer (Workforce)
With only a few days until the election the SNP is widely expected to walk away with the constituency vote on May 5th but the other parties want the regional list vote to increase their chances of getting representation in the Scottish Parliament.
What the polls say
SNP remain in a strong position and the expected majority would make the parties legislative programme easier to implement. Labour, Conservatives and the Greens have acknowledged SNP’s grip on Scottish politics and are vying for votes to provide strong opposition.
YouGov still places Labour and the Conservatives in a close contest for second place. Ruth Davidson’s claim that she would be a more effective opposition leader than Kezia Dugdale seems to have struck a chord. However, whether this increasingly popular Scottish Party has done enough to distance itself from an unpopular government in Westminster and increase Conservative votes remains to be see. A recent poll revealed that despite struggling to maintain position Labour is still the party 38% would prefer to come second; 21% preferring the Conservatives in second place.
The polls reveal an equally tight contest between the Lib Dems and the Greens for fourth position. Despite the optimism of the Lib Dem manifesto for reclaiming Holyrood the polls show the Greens out in front by an average of two points.
This brief overview of the main parties’ manifestos identifies the key priorities in relation to the voluntary social care sector. There are comprehensive plans which relate specifically to children, too extensive to cover here.
‘I have pledged to be First Minister for all of Scotland. Regardless of your politics or your point of view, my job is to serve you. My vision for Scotland is probably little different from yours. It’s one of a fair, equal and prosperous nation with opportunity for us all to grow and thrive’.
- Extend payment of the Living Wage – ensuring that all social care workers receive the Living Wage by October 2016;
- Build on the integration of health and social care and invest £1.3 billion from the NHS to integrated partnerships to build up social care capacity;
- Continue to shift the balance of care by increasing, in every year of the next parliament, the share of the NHS budget dedicated to mental health and to primary, community, and social care;
- Review care capacity, funding and the structures it’s directed through. Work to end ‘time and task’ based care, and shift to care which focuses on outcomes.
- Work with mental health charities, stakeholders and service users to put in place a ten year plan to transform mental health care in Scotland including for children and young people;
- Consult on the introduction of national guidance for care charges and, as part of this, consider the option of a cap that takes account of the costs of disability related expenditure;
- Make charges for social care services fairer. We have already invested £6 million to increase the income threshold at which someone becomes liable for charges, and we will continue to take action to make the system fairer still;
- Continue to invest in services and projects which support children affected by parental substance misuse and/or who are at risk from behaviours and activity which compromise their well-being.
How they will do this:
- The 40p upper rate upper rate of tax will rise by a maximum of inflation in each year of the next parliament. The SNP will not proceed with the Tories’ plans to raise the higher rate of tax threshold to £50,000.
- Income Tax plans mean that SNP will have at least £1.2 billion extra to invest in the NHS and public services over the lifetime of the next parliament.
‘A Labour Government will increase spending on our public services in real terms and stop the cuts to schools and other public services’.
Scottish Labour will:
- Lead the way on sectoral bargaining in areas where government spending can influence i.e. The care sector;
- Continue to oppose the Trade Union Bill;
- Guarantee a social care package to be in place within a week (of identified need);
- Scottish Labour’s National Careworkers’ Guarantee: ‘ensuring that staff are paid for travel cost and travel time; that no staff are left on zero-hours contracts; and that proper training is given to all staff before they enter the workplace. We will ensure staff have time to care’;
- Work to end care charges, so that all aspects of social care are free at the point of delivery.
- Pause the Named Person scheme to review, address concerns and make changes if necessary;
- Improve the experience of care; review the strategy for looked after children and set challenging targets for achieving outcomes.
How they will do this:
- Introduce a 50 pence top rate of tax for those earning over £150k and use this money to invest in public services;
- Set the basic and higher rate of income tax 1 pence higher than the rate set by George Osborne.
‘A Strong Opposition- A Stronger Scotland. A strong, principled opposition will fight every day to get the SNP to focus on running the country’.
Scottish Conservatives will:
- Monitor the new health and social care partnerships carefully to ensure the reforms are meeting their objectives;
- Reverse the Named Person Law;
- Set up a Crisis Family Fund to offer early intervention and tailored support to ‘troubled families’;
- Boost mental health support.
The focus from the party is on improving childcare and education. However, at the CCPS Children and Families Hustings on April 21st Miles Briggs from the party stated there would be a £300 million investment to improve mental health services. The need to improve mental health services for children and young people gained consensus from the five party representatives at the hustings event.
How they will do this;
- Use the new tax powers to create a competitive and fair Scotland;
- Support the most vulnerable with Scottish welfare powers;
- Ensure the two governments work together.
‘A Better Scotland Needs a Bolder Holyrood. We believe that Scotland can be fairer, greener and healthier. We believe that the Scottish Parliament can be so much bolder in meeting the ambitions of the people of Scotland’.
Scottish Greens will:
- Campaign for all care and support workers to be paid significantly higher than the Living Wage;
- Demand improved working conditions;
- Demand an end to ‘zero hours’ care worker contracts
- Introduce a caring social security system;
- Provide real security for disabled people.
- Increase the Carer’s Allowance;
- Fight child poverty;
- Introduce weekly top up to child benefit.
How they will do this:
- Progressive taxation;
- 60% rate for earnings over £150k;
- Replace the current 20% rate with an 18% and 22% rate;
- Replace Council tax with a Residential Property Tax.
‘Liberal Democrats have bold and positive plans for change to be the best again. Scotland needs strong liberal voices to be the best again’.
Scottish Liberal Democrats will:
- Give more professional freedoms to health and social care workers to deliver excellent care;
- Value the care workforce, enabling them to provide more continuity of care for the people they help; they will be paid at least the Living Wage;
- Change the law to put mental health on the same statutory footing as physical health.
- Double mental health budget for children and young people;
- Support a review of the way in which children get access to the justice system and how this can be updated;
- Legislate to stop the physical punishment of children.
How they will do it:
- Priorities on Scottish taxes for the next five years will be to strike the balance between investing in public services, protecting those on low and middle incomes and supporting the environment;
- Initiate a full spending review starting in May 2016. This will be the tool we use to align Scottish Government spending with the priorities identified in this manifesto;
- Roll the £70 million previously retained by the Scottish Government for the council tax freeze into the main local government settlement;
- Continue the broad direction of current Scottish Government spending, borrowing, efficiency and pay policies.
The election results are unlikely to cause any shocks with SNP set to gain a majority from the constituency votes. The real battles are between the Conservatives and Labour for second place and the Greens and Lib Dems for fourth.
This election is being seen as hugely significant due to the new tax raising powers but as one political blogger recently commented the 2016 election could be ‘the great change that allowed everything to stay the same’.
The Criminal Justice Voluntary Sector Forum has published an analysis of the manifestos from a justice perspective available here.