‘Bairns not bombs’: SNP calls for end to two-child benefit cap and pledges NHS funding boost

The SNP has called for the two-child benefit cap to be scrapped and for billions more to be put into the NHS as the party pledged to “end 14 years of austerity” during its manifesto launch.

Speaking in Edinburgh, First Minister John Swinney claimed his was the only major party arguing for an end to the squeeze on public services, saying “arbitrary Tory fiscal rules, adopted by Labour, [would] bake-in more eye-watering cuts”.

Instead, he promised to “protect our public services and our precious NHS”, while scrapping the Trident nuclear deterrent and abolishing the House of Lords.

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“Elected government not ermine clad cronies,” said Mr Swinney. “Lift the two-child cap, not the cap on bankers’ bonuses. Bairns, not bombs. And investment, not cuts.

“I believe these choices represent the values most of us share. They are Scotland’s values. And a vote for the SNP – a vote for this manifesto – is a vote for those values.”

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The first minister also said independence for Scotland remained “at the very heart of our beliefs”, as he insisted the SNP’s majority in the 2021 Holyrood elections gave the party a democratic mandate for a second referendum.

He said if the party secured a majority of MPs north of the border on 4 July, it would “intensify the pressure” on Westminster to allow another vote.

But pushed multiple times by journalists, Mr Swinney refused to say if the SNP would step back from that if it failed to get the most MPs in Scotland.

Instead, he said: “Decisions about Scotland should be made by the people who live in Scotland… for the simple reason that no-one else cares as much about this wonderful country, and no-one else will do a better job of taking care of it, now and in the future, than the people who live here.

“Not independence for its own sake. Independence for the powers to protect our NHS and to help people through tough times, independence for a stronger economy, and happier, healthier lives, and independence for a better future for Scotland – made in Scotland – for Scotland.”

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The 32-page document listed all the party’s main priorities and pledges, with others including:

• Re-joining the EU
• Devolving powers to create a bespoke migration system for Scotland
• Demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza
• Supporting full compensation for WASPI women
• Scrapping zero hours contracts and fire/rehire practices
• Scrapping the government’s Rwanda plan
• Decriminalising drugs for personal use
• Maintaining the triple lock on pensions

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On the NHS specifically, the party called for at least £16bn more a year be put into the English service, which in turn would provide an extra £1.6bn to NHS Scotland.

Mr Swinney said SNP MPs would “join with progressive politicians south of the border to press for greater funding”, as well as calling on the UK government to match the pay deals given to NHS staff in Scotland, which saw strikes avoided.

He also promised to introduce a “keep the NHS in public hands” bill, offering “a legal guarantee for a publicly owned, publicly operated health service”.

“The SNP message on the health services is clear, it is simple and it will never change,” he added. “The NHS is not for sale.”

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