Scotland politics

Holyrood 2016: Parties campaign on education and tax

Pupils with jotter and coloured pencils
Image caption Education is a key issue in the Scottish Parliament election campaign

The Holyrood election campaign has resumed after the Easter weekend with the parties focused on the future.

Five political leaders campaigned in and around Edinburgh before their second televised debate.

The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats concentrated on education, while SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon unveiled her plans to help more young people into work.

The Scottish Greens announced plans to reform income tax and end council tax.

The leaders are due to go head-to-head in a second televised debate broadcast on STV later.

Last week they clashed on the issue of income tax during a BBC Scotland debate ahead of the Holyrood election.

Image caption Nicola Sturgeon campaigning in Edinburgh

During a visit to a community cafe in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon outlined her plan for a £100 jobs grant to 16-24 year olds who have been unemployed for more than six months, with a larger grant available to young couples.

She said: "We will use the new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament to support Scotland's young people and to grow our economy.

"I want to see all our young people start their working lives with the best possible opportunities and an equal chance of success."

Labour's Kezia Dugdale focussed on education, highlighting a drop in probationer teachers since the SNP first came to power.

Image caption Kezia Dugdale visited a nursery in East Lothian

She said: "Nicola Sturgeon claims that education is the defining priority of her government, but reality of her record just does not reflect that.

"Labour will ask those earning more than £150,000 a year to pay a bit more in tax so we can stop the cuts and invest in our schools."

Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson set out her early years education commitments during a nursery visit.

She said: "The SNP has singularly failed to make any progress on narrowing the attainment gap, despite having sole control over education for almost a decade.

"Standards of literacy and numeracy in Scotland among young people have been allowed to slip - the Scottish Conservatives would place reversing that trend at the absolute heart of education policy."

The Liberal Democrat's Willie Rennie took his penny on income tax for education pledge to the streets.

He said: "Liberal Democrats have set out clear plans for education, with a transformational investment of half a billion pounds a year for nurseries, schools and colleges.

"My challenge to the other parties ahead of this debate is clear: they need to match our ambition and build a Scotland that is fit for the future."

Tax reform

Ahead of the latest debate, Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Greens unveiled proposals for new income tax rates for Scotland's highest earners.

The party's plans would see income tax reduced for those earning under £26,500 once Holyrood gets power over rates and bands in April 2017.

He also set out his party's plans to scrap the existing council tax and replace it with a residential property tax based on up-to-date values.

A Scottish Green spokesman said: "With new powers over income tax rates and bands, now is the time for Holyrood to be bold and raise revenue to reverse cuts and tackle inequality.

"Our plans will show that for that bolder Holyrood, more Green MSPs are essential.

Image caption Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone

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