Scotland politics

Scottish election: SNP vow five-year council tax freeze

The SNP has promised to extend the council tax freeze to the whole of the next parliament, if it wins a second term of government.

The party's manifesto also pledges to create a "renewables revolution", including 130,000 low carbon jobs and 100% energy from renewables by 2020.

And it vowed to protect NHS spending and introduce an independence referendum in the next parliament.

Voters go to the polls in the Holyrood election on 5 May.

The SNP said the five-year council tax freeze would cost £210m by 2014-15. The tax has been frozen in Scotland since the party won power in 2007.

The manifesto pledge on the referendum bill comes after the SNP failed to get it through the last parliament because of a lack of support.

Leader Alex Salmond said he had a vision of a "free, just and independent Scotland".

He told the manifesto launch gathering: "We are committed to another five years of the council tax freeze because it has given a much-needed boost to households during tough times.

"It is a central part of our social democratic contract with the people of Scotland."

Mr Salmond said the party goes into the election with a record of achievement in government and wanted more financial control from Westminster to aid recovery.

He promised a £2.5bn programme to finance capital projects and also made commitments to create 100,000 training opportunities a year, including 25,000 apprenticeships and new school building investment.

The party manifesto, launched at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, also outlined details of a £50m fund to help young people and pay for a national football academy.

The SNP said its young Scots fund formed part of the £250m Scottish futures initiative, which has come from savings in the cost of building the new Forth Road Bridge.

Mr Salmond said the fund would "drive Scotland's future".

For health, the SNP pledged to protect NHS funding, allowing "faster and better treatment" and investing £30m in the earlier detection of cancer.

In the area of transport, the party's second term would take forward projects including the Borders Railway.

It wants to use the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow to "put Scotland on the path to a healthier and more successful future".

The party wants to grow Scotland's food and drink sector to £12.5bn by 2017 and cut bureaucracy facing farm businesses.

In addition, there are plans to tackle knife crime through increased stop-and-search and a roll-out of the "No Knives, Better Lives" scheme across the country.

Mr Salmond promised to "do our best to kick ass for Scotland", a reference to the newest party supporter, Scottish comic book author, Mark Millar of Kick-Ass fame.

He said: "At this election our message is crystal clear - the SNP is the only party with a track record which proves we can be trusted to deliver a council tax freeze.

"This is a manifesto full of ambitious policies designed to take Scotland forward to a successful future - including a referendum on independence so that at long last the people have the right to choose Scotland's future."

The party's deputy leader, Nicola Sturgeon, said the SNP had achieved much in its first four years in office, but there was still "much to do".

She pointed to pledges including extending family nurse partnerships from Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow to the whole of Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon added: "This is a manifesto which outlines the record, team and the vision to win the SNP a historic second term in office."

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