Scotland Election 2016

SNP manifesto launch: Sturgeon makes personal plea to voters

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Media captionMs Sturgeon said the SNP manifesto was her application for the job of first minister

Nicola Sturgeon has made a personal plea for voters to elect her as Scottish first minister as she launched the SNP's Holyrood election manifesto.

The party goes into the election on 5 May hoping to secure a third consecutive term in government.

It will be the first time Ms Sturgeon has led the party in a Scottish Parliament election.

The manifesto does not include a specific pledge to hold a second referendum on independence.

But it promises to increase NHS funding by £500m more than inflation over the five years.

Ms Sturgeon described this as "part of a package of investment and reform to equip the NHS for the future".

The 72-page manifesto also includes a commitment to "baby boxes" full of essentials to parents of all newborns, and sets an ambitious new target to cut emissions by 50% by 2020 as part of the fight against climate change.

And Ms Sturgeon said that the SNP would "open the doors of opportunity to all our young people", with a re-elected SNP government focused on doubling free childcare, reforming education, improving attainment and increasing access to university and training.

The SNP leader said closing the attainment gap in education would form "the defining mission" of her next government if she is returned to power.

She promised to invest £750m in education, with a focus on helping pupils from deprived backgrounds.

Analysis by Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland political editor

Image copyright SNP
Image caption About 1,400 people attended the manifesto launch at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre

For Ms Sturgeon, this was a notably personal launch. If there was any doubt, it was dispelled by the huge sign over the auditorium reading "Re-elect". (Her speech made clear this meant her, not just her administration).

Subtle it was not - but then elections are not the occasion to test-run obscure and abstruse allusions.

She is seeking a mandate in her own right, having inherited one from Alex Salmond. She is stressing that the "central mission" of her next administration, if returned, would be enhanced education, particularly for those from less privileged backgrounds. Like, she said, Sturgeon, S.

She is promising real terms increases in NHS spending; a fairer approach to social security, under new powers; doubled free childcare; £20bn for infrastructure to boost the economy; and protection for police budgets.

Above all, she is stressing this is about power, not protest. The power to affect change. Other parties, she suggests, may be concerned about who comes second, who jostles for relative advantage. She is interested in winning.

Read more from Brian

Much of the focus ahead of the manifesto launch had been on what it would or would not say about the prospect of a second independence referendum.

Ms Sturgeon had previously said Holyrood should have the right to stage such a ballot "if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people" or if there is a "significant and material change" in circumstances.

This could, for example, be Scotland being taken out of the European Union against the wishes of Scottish voters.

The manifesto repeats Ms Sturgeon's assertion, and says that the party will start in the summer to build a new case for independence over the five-year term of the next parliament.

Speaking as she launched the document, Ms Sturgeon said: "If there is to be a second referendum - whether that is in the next parliament or in a future parliament - we first have to earn the right to propose it.

'New work'

"Setting the date for a referendum before a majority of the Scottish people have been persuaded that independence - and therefore another referendum - is the best future for our country is the wrong way round.

"So this summer, we will start new work to persuade a majority in Scotland of the case for independence. If we don't succeed, we will have no right to propose another referendum."

Ms Sturgeon said the decision facing voters on 5 May was who should form the next government of Scotland and who should be the next first minister.

She added: "That is what this election is about. It is not a battle for second place or a game of chance with the electoral system - it is about choosing a government and a first minister that you can trust to lead the country forward for the next five years and into a new decade.

"I am asking the Scottish people to give me a personal mandate to implement these policies and make our country even better."

Image caption Large queues formed outside the venue ahead of the event

Ms Sturgeon said she was proud of what the SNP had achieved in the past nine years as Scotland's government.

She listed "record levels" of NHS investment, "record low" crime levels, free university education, same sex marriage and the referendum "that changed our nation forever" as being among the party's major achievements.

She described the SNP manifesto as "brimming with ideas and policies to move the country forward".

And she said it was the "most ambitious programme for government that we have ever published ahead of a Scottish election".

She added: "This election is our opportunity to focus on the kind of country Scotland can be and who can provide the leadership to make it a reality."

'Both votes'

Reiterating the party's "Both Votes SNP" strategy, Ms Sturgeon urged the party's supporters not to "play the lottery" by casting their second vote for another pro-independence party such as the Scottish Greens or Rise.

She said: "If you want to see the SNP back in government on 6 May, vote SNP with both votes.

"If you want me to be your first minister, with a clear mandate to lead Scotland forward, vote SNP with both votes.

"The simple truth is that nothing else will guarantee that outcome".

Large queues formed outside the Edinburgh International Conference Centre ahead of the manifesto launch, which was expected to attract an audience of 1,400 guests.

The event was streamed live on the SNP's Youtube channel, and the manifesto will also be available through a specially-designed interactive app.

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