Scottish election: Lib Dems launch 'jobs' manifesto

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott launches his party's manifesto

The Scottish Lib Dems have launched their manifesto for the Holyrood election with a pledge to provide "long-term solutions, not quick fixes".

Leader Tavish Scott focused on jobs, education and local services - areas he says are crucial to solving Scotland's economic and social problems.

The manifesto pledges to create 100,000 new jobs by generating £1.5bn from reforming Scottish Water.

And it says pupils could go to college from the age of 14 if they won power.

The manifesto promises more power and financial control for headteachers and lays out the party's opposition to all tuition fees, both upfront and after graduation.

It said it would create a "flexible spine" for Scottish university degrees so that many students could complete their degree in three years, not four.

As part of their education pledges, the party said it would create a £250m "early intervention fund" to give children good start in life and also outlined extra measures for youngsters in care.

Manifesto quick-look

  • Create the conditions for 100,000 new jobs
  • Deliver enterprise zones in Scotland
  • Introduce payment-by-results in public services
  • Support to companies developing marine, hydro and biomass renewable energy technology
  • Make ownership of an electric car a "realistic ambition"
  • Provide opportunity for youngsters to attend college from age of 14
  • Give local communities a right to hear from their police
  • New national objective on obesity

At the launch in Innerleithen in the south of Scotland, the Lib Dems announced plans to sell off Scottish Water's debt, turning it into a public benefit company, although they insist this is not privatisation.

Mr Scott said this measure would provide a one-off capital receipt of £1.5bn which would be used to "create the conditions for 100,000 new jobs".

The party also gave backing to regional development banks, which would replace Scottish Enterprise and Skills Development Scotland.

Mr Scott said that move would provide "more accessible and personalised support" for 1,000 businesses, create 10,000 jobs and protect thousands more. And new enterprise zones would be set up if his party won power.

He told the BBC: "People are telling me across Scotland that they want to see immediate action on jobs, on education and on keeping important services like police, local.

"Our manifesto is costed. We've managed to find monies through a change in what Scottish Water is, to ensure that investment for the long-term interest of Scotland can be made.

Analysis

The venue had been chosen to symbolise economic renewal - but , on the day, it also spotlighted the concept of triumph over adversity.

Tavish Scott of the Liberal Democrats is keen to offer the former - and equally enthusiastic to see his party achieving the latter.

And that venue? The Caerlee Mills in Innerleithen in the Borders where a diligent and skilled workforce are turning out high-quality cashmere for a global market.

It is, however, a rather smaller workforce these days since a larger enterprise went down last year.

The LibDems are keen to ensure that a comparable down-sizing doesn't afflict their Holyrood team after the votes are cast.

The wicked media had arrived in force, ready to quiz Mr Scott about his apparent problems, notably the decision by a former LibDem MSP to endorse Alex Salmond for first minister.

In the event, we in the the w.m. reverted mostly to our customary sport: that of picking holes in a party's manifesto.

"That means investing in jobs and investing in regional development banks that will lend to businesses to create work where that's not currently happening."

The manifesto details plans to boost Scotland's green economy with more investment in renewable energy, as well as a £250m fund to help householders insulate their homes.

The party said it would increase exports, cut regulation and make Scotland "the most digitally connected economy in Europe" with a £250m investment in superfast broadband.

The manifesto also backed shared public services, although the Lib Dems are the only major Scottish party which opposes a single, national police force.

It said plans for a Scotland-wide force would drain resources and accountability from local communities.

The party also argued for a cut to top salaries in the public sector and a bigger voice for front line public sector staff like teachers and nurses.

It also plans to scrap council tax for the pensioners with an annuual income of less than £10,000, but to increase the qualifying age for the bus pass from 60 to 65.

On prisons, the Lib Dems vowed to end automatic early release and backed intervention schemes to cut knife crime.

The manifesto launch comes the day after outgoing Lib Dem, John Farquhar Munro, backed Alex Salmond.

First minister

The former MSP told the BBC the SNP leader was "the best man" for the job as first minister.

However, he insisted he was not endorsing the SNP and remained a "strong Lib Dem" and would be out campaigning for the party ahead of the 5 May Scottish election.

Earlier in the campaign, Lib Dem candidate Hugh O'Donnell quit the party saying he was unhappy with its direction and with the UK Tory/Lib Dem coalition.

Mr O'Donnell had been penned in to be the leading candidate in the party's Central Scotland list.

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