DEPUTY First Minister John Swinney has said the SNP will publish a radical manifesto for government “which can build on the achievements of the last nine years”.

The party’s plans will be unveiled on Wednesday at an event billed as Scotland’s largest ever manifesto launch, and Nicola Sturgeon unveiled a series of key campaign promises over the weekend.

She said the SNP would raise Scotland’s 2020 climate target from the current 42 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions to more than 50 per cent– a move which has been welcomed by climate campaigners.

The new target will be contained in a Climate Change Bill, which will be put before Holyrood if the SNP is returned to government at the May 5 election. Setting a target of beyond 50 per cent by 2020 will exceed the EU’s aim to make a 40 per cent cut by 2030 and the UK’s pledge of a 35 per cent cut by 2020.

Sturgeon also pledged an extra 500 health visitors, a £600 maternity grant for low-income mothers and baby boxes of essentials for all newborns. “By providing every newborn with a baby box, we can help child health – and by providing greater support to new families, we will also help to tackle child poverty and improve the chances of some of our most deprived children,” Sturgeon told a Sunday newspaper.

Swinney, who is also the SNP’s campaign manager, said: “The SNP campaign will step up a gear this week with the launch of our manifesto — the biggest of its kind ever held in Scotland. We are very proud to stand on our record, and this manifesto will be full of policies which can build on the achievements of the last nine years to help make Scotland an even better place to live.

“But the only way to be sure of re-electing Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister leading a government in a position to deliver our manifesto policies is to give both votes to the SNP.”

Swinney’s remarks came after Sturgeon said the SNP would use a third term in power to promote independence, stating that “we will work hard to persuade a majority of the Scottish people that being an independent country is the best option for our country”, despite the lack of a manifesto commitment to a second referendum.

In a clear signal that the door would be left open for a fresh vote on independence, Sturgeon said that “if there is a clear demand for a referendum no politician has the right to stand in the way of the people of Scotland to choose their own future”.

Sturgeon went on to say that a re-elected SNP Government would seek to build on the 45 per cent support for independence that was secured in the referendum on 18 September in 2014 and stated that her ministers would actively seek to convince those who voted No.

She said: “We will also ensure that Scotland’s future as a nation is firmly in the hands of the people of Scotland. We believe passionately that independence offers the best future for Scotland. However, we know Scotland will only become independent when a majority of people in Scotland choose that future in a democratic referendum – it will not happen just because the SNP wants it to, or because there is an SNP government.

“We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum 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 the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.

“In the next parliament, we will work hard to persuade a majority of the Scottish people that being an independent country is the best option for our country. We will listen to the concerns of people who voted No in 2014 and seek to address them.”

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