Scottish election 2021: Railways key to Conservatives' 200,000 jobs pledge

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Image caption,
Douglas Ross outlined his job creation plans on a visit to a construction company in Blantyre

Upgrades and reopening of railway lines account for a quarter of 200,000 new jobs promised by the Scottish Conservatives over the next five years.

The party said infrastructure investment including the railway work could create 51,600 jobs.

Proposed job security councils, to find new work for those recently laid off, could find employment for 31,900, with energy investment bringing 24,000 jobs.

Party leader Douglas Ross said the plans were "bold and ambitious".

The Scottish Conservatives said their housebuilding policies could create jobs for 16,400 people, while a new enterprise bill - which would create an economic development agency in each region of the country - would mean employment for another 19,400 Scots.

The proposals would "help businesses get back on their feet so they can protect current jobs and start creating the jobs of the future", Mr Ross added.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail, the Scottish Greens pledged to introduce a railcard to bring down the cost of train fares.

The party said it would be modelled on the Network Rail card used in the south east of England, which reduces the cost of off-peak journeys by a third.

The proposed railcard would reduce the cost of an off-peak return from Glasgow to Dundee from £40.50 to £27.

"We've already won free bus travel for all people under 22 this year, and we want to introduce concessionary travel on publicly-owned railways too," said co-leader Patrick Harvie as he launched the policy at Partick railway station in Glasgow.

"A Scottish railcard would be a quick way to immediately bring down the cost of rail for everyone who lives here."

SCOTLAND'S ELECTION: THE BASICS

What's happening? On 6 May, people across Scotland will vote to elect 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). The party that wins the most seats will form the government. Find out more here.

What powers do they have? MSPs pass laws on aspects of life in Scotland such as health, education and transport - and have some powers over tax and welfare benefits.

Who can vote? Anyone who lives in Scotland, is registered to vote and aged 16 or over on 6 May is eligible.

The SNP has promised free bikes to school children who cannot afford them and to ensure every child in Scotland leaves school with the ability to cycle safely.

Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said she wanted to "lock in good habits" to capitalise on the "huge increases" in people trying healthier modes of transport during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Sturgeon said if re-elected, the SNP would ensure that 10% of the transport capital budget goes on active travel by the end of the next Holyrood term in 2026.

It will also seek to ensure every town in Scotland has a "high quality and separated walking and cycling network".

"We want to encourage good habits from the youngest age," Ms Sturgeon said. "Active travel has so many benefits for our health, for the environment and for our communities."

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Nicola Sturgeon visited a Bike for Good community hub in Glasgow

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie set out plans to end homelessness, which he said had been "the scourge of our society for far too long".

Describing the problem as a "national scandal", Mr Rennie questioned why it took the coronavirus pandemic for the Scottish government to try to house all rough sleepers.

The party says about 100 homeless applications are made every day in Scotland, with around 150,000 people on council housing waiting lists.

Mr Rennie said new laws were needed to strengthen the duties on public bodies to prevent homelessness, and pledged that 40,000 of 60,000 proposed new homes to be built should be available for social rent.

"It's a comprehensive plan to make sure the individual is looked after so they can have a settled life in a good home, because that is what they deserve," he added.

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour Anas Sarwar said Scotland deserved better than the "old politics" of division as he unveiled the party's election manifesto.

Mr Sarwar said his party's national recovery plan - divided into five parts, including jobs, the NHS, education and the climate - would build a "fairer and stronger Scotland" after the pandemic.

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