The Scottish National Party is committed to protecting student nurse bursaries and would explore setting up separate pay arrangements for NHS staff in Scotland, if the UK government continued to restrain salaries, the party’s election manifesto has revealed.
Launched yesterday, the document said the party would continue to ensure free tuition – as well as the non-means tested nursing and midwifery student bursary – which was in contrast to the UK government that is scrapping bursaries in England from this autumn.
“We will seek to…explore the creation of distinct Scottish pay review arrangements”
Meanwhile, it said that “at a time of rising inflation, public sector pay caps become increasingly unsustainable”.
The SNP would continue to use the NHS Pay Review Body recommendations and implement them “in full,” said the document, but warned that it would look at setting up its own system if the body was not allowed to make independent recommendations.
“Should a UK government continue to constrain pay in the next parliament, and therefore curtail the independence of the pay review body, we will seek to work with health unions to explore the creation of distinct Scottish pay review arrangements,” said the document.
The manifesto also reiterated the party’s plan to bringing in safe staffing laws for the NHS, announced by the SNP government in summer 2016.
The party also highlighted that it would invest an extra £1.7bn in health and social care by the end of the current term of the Scottish parliament.
Its pledges were made alongside mentions of other policies it has already brought in while in government in Scotland, such as an increase in health visitor numbers, the introduction of a baby box for every new-born child, and its child health and wellbeing strategy.
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The party was also reforming primary care to increase its share of the NHS budget, which would lead to an increase an increase in community nurses, it said.
Meanwhile, the UK government’s strategy on obesity “falls short on key measures to make meaningful progress” and the SNP would press the government to extend measures beyond Westminster, such as closing loopholes in the sugary drinks tax and tightening regulation of junk food advertising.
Speaking at the launch of the manifesto in Perth yesterday, SNP party leader Nicola Sturgeon said it was “vital to have strong SNP voices standing up for Scotland”.
“For next year and in future years, we will not assume a 1% cap”
She said the SNP would take a different approach to public sector pay, noting that already many nurses in Scotland were now paid more than their counterparts in other parts of the UK.
“The 1% pay cap was designed to protect jobs at a time of spending cuts imposed by Westminster….And at a time of rising inflation, it is increasingly unsustainable,” said Scotland’s first minister.
“Of course, pay rises must be affordable – but they must also reflect the real life circumstances people face and enable us to attract and retain staff in our public services,” she said.”
“So for next year and in future years, we will not assume a 1% cap,” added Ms Sturgeon.
“Instead, we will set a remit for discussions with trade unions, and for our evidence to pay review bodies, that is based on a proper consideration of the impact of inflation – with a view to reaching fair outcomes that strike the right balance between affordability and the cost of living,” she said.