Dozens of failed pledges made in previous SNP programmes for government have been exposed – the day before Nicola Sturgeon sets out her plans for 2019/20.
Research by the Scottish Conservatives has revealed 30 botched promises made in statements in recent years, which traditionally kick-off the annual parliamentary term.
Across all major devolved briefs, the nationalists have repeated failed to deliver on a range of key policies.
In education, they’ve fallen short on the pledge to narrow the attainment gap and dropped an Education Bill that was meant to give “more powers to headteachers, more support to teachers and strengthen the role of parents”.
Scotland’s economy is also counting the cost of failed programme for government measures, with a growth scheme that was meant to deliver £500 million way off course, and the commitment to reduce air departure tax scrapped.
In health, SNP councils have already spoken about dropping the very same Frank’s Law that was only legislated for last year, and a drive to recruit mental health workers has fallen woefully short.
And on welfare, the SNP has delayed delivery of its funeral expense benefit, handed back powers on newly-devolved areas of welfare, and its new social security agency is falling short of recruitment targets.
Scottish Conservative chief whip Maurice Golden said:
“Every year Nicola Sturgeon sets out a range of warm-worded promises, and every year she fails to deliver.
“This is what happens when a nationalist government obsesses about breaking up Britain at the cost of the everyday priorities that should be its concern.
“We can see here that pledges on everything from health and education to justice and the environment have been abandoned, fallen short or simply vanished into thin air.
“With that in mind, why should any sensible voter take seriously what they hear from Nicola Sturgeon this time around.
“The programme for government presents an opportunity for the Scottish Government to make a real difference to people’s lives, to the wellbeing of business, and to the health of Scotland’s economy.
“Instead, the SNP repeatedly squanders these chances, and that’s the hallmark of a complacent and negligent government.”
Notes to editors:
Below is a list of failed SNP pledges from previous programmes for government:
- Failing to close the attainment gap
PfG promise: “At its centre is a commitment to introduce an Improvement Framework for schools, to help us drive up attainment in all schools, and to close the attainment gap” (Programme for Government, 2015-16, link).
Reality: The attainment gap between 18 year olds going to university in Scotland has increased to the highest level since at least 2010, when UCAS figures began. The gap is now 27.2 per cent, an increase of 0.7 per cent on the last year (UCAS, 7 August 2019, link)
- Childcare expansion situation is ‘grim’
PfG promise: Expand free, high quality early learning and childcare for 3 and 4 year olds and new cohorts of 2-year old children with plans to increase the entitlement to 1140 hours a year by 2020 (Programme for Government, 2015-16, link).
Reality: with one year to go for the SNP to deliver their childcare pledge, nurseries say the situation is ‘grim’ and finding staff is a huge problem. In a survey by the National Day Nurseries Association, 71 per cent of private childcare providers had recruitment issues. 62 per cent of nurseries faced ‘significant challenges’ in retaining staff. Purnima Tanuku, the NDNA chief executive, said: ‘The results of our research paint a grim picture, with 71 per cent of employers telling us they have problems recruiting staff at practitioner level’ (BBC News, 7 August 2019, link).
- Education Bill dropped
PfG promise: “introducing an Education Bill to reform school governance – giving more powers to headteachers, more support to teachers and strengthening the role of parents” (Programme for Government, 2017-18, link).
Reality: The SNP abandoned their Education Bill despite calling it their flagship reform. Sturgeon originally said that ‘A new education bill will deliver the biggest and most radical change to how our schools are run that we have seen in the lifetime of devolution’ (Scottish Parliament, Official Report, 5 September 2017, link).
- The Scottish Growth Scheme is failing to deliver £500 million anywhere near on time
PFG Promise: ‘We will work with business organisations, the UK Government and the Scottish Parliament to establish a new £500 million Scottish Growth Scheme.’ (Scottish Government, Programme for Government 2016-17, page 6, link).
Reality: The Scottish Growth Scheme didn’t release funds to businesses for more than a year. Scottish Conservative FOIs found that the 2017-18 and 2018-19 Budgets only allocated £25 million to the supposedly £500 million Scottish Growth Scheme. A year on from the announcement of the Scottish Growth Scheme, £0 of loans and guarantees were delivered to businesses, whereas it was supposed to be a £500 million as part of a three-year plan (The Times, 11 March 2018, link).
- The SNP dropped their commitment to cutting APD
PFG Promise: ‘Reduce the burden of Air Passenger Duty (APD) by 50 per cent with the reduction beginning when we introduce a Scottish APD in 2018’ (Scottish Government, Programme for Government 2015-16, Page 6, link)
Reality: The ADT (Scotland) Act 2017 received Royal Assent on 25 July 2017, however the tax has yet to be fully devolved to Scotland as a result of legal issues surrounding flights to and from the Highlands and Islands. In May 2019, the SNP announced that they would drop their commitment to halving APD as a result of Nicola Sturgeon declaring a climate emergency at the SNP conference. (BBC News, 7 May 2019, link)
- The SNP delayed their Digital Growth Fund
PFG Promise: ‘That is why this year, building on previous investments in digital skills, we announced the Digital Growth Fund, with £36 million available over three years from April 2018 to enhance the digital capabilities of our people and our businesses, through support for digital skills training. We will work with business to ensure this investment meets their needs.’ (Scottish Government, Programme for Government 2016-17, page 53, link).
Reality: The SNP only started partially releasing some of this money in late June 2018, more than 15 months after it was announced (SNP.org, 18 March 2017, link; Scottish Parliament, Written Answers, 7 June 2018, link).
- SNP’s Social Security agency is falling short of recruitment targets
PfG target: “Confirming the configuration of the new social security agency and continuing to recruit at least 1,500 members of staff to work as part of it” (Programme for Government, 2017-18, link).
Reality: The SNP are falling short of their recruitment needs to run a successful and functioning Social Security agency. In the last Audit Scotland report there were only 320 staff employed by Social Security Scotland agency. They point to a larger figure of 463 that are employed to help with the delivery of the devolved benefits (p.19 of report), but that is a wider scope including policy staff/comms/programme staff. They’ve used a lot of contractors through the process as well, and the report points to, a position vacancy rate of 30% - which the SNP, following the audit release, claimed was down to 15% and dropping (Audit Scotland, Social Security: Implementing the Devolved Powers, May 2019, link), .
- SNP have delayed their delivery of Funeral Expense benefit
PfG target: “In the coming year we will also provide financial support to people on lower incomes who have lost loved ones and are struggling with funeral costs through Funeral Expense Assistance” (Programme for Government, 2018-19, link).
Reality: The benefit was to be delivered by summer this year, still no announcements have been made that launch this benefit (Scot Gov, Delivery of Devolved Benefits: Stakeholder Toolkit, link).
- The SNP have handed back powers for one of the devolved benefits
PfG: “deliver 11 existing social security benefits as part of a devolved Scottish system” (Programme for Government, 2017-18, link).
Reality: The SNP decided to leave the administration of the Severe Disablement Payment in the hands of the DWP (The Scotsman, 6 March 2019, link).
- The SNP have still not introduced a Local Democracy Bill
PfG: “The findings from the Review will be used to put in place new governance arrangements, and where legislation is needed we will deliver these through a Local Democracy Bill” (Programme for Government, 2018-19, link).
Reality: They have still not introduced a Bill of this nature despite having undertaken a Local Governance Review. However, the 2017-18 PfG points to the Bill being introduced at some point over the lifetime of this Parliament so it could still be delivered.
- The Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route opened almost a year late
PfG promise: ‘The contract award date and construction start are anticipated later this year, with work scheduled for completion by spring 2018.’ (Programme for Government, 2014-15, link).
Reality: The AWPR did not open to drivers until February 2019. (Press and Journal, 18 February 2019, link).
- Glasgow to Edinburgh mainline electrification was competed ten months late
PfG promise: ‘Work continues on the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme, with electrification of the mainline due for completion by December 2016.’ (Programme for Government, 2015-16, link).
Reality: The schedule was revised to October 2017. (Transport Scotland, accessed 26 August 2019, link).
- Completion of the Queensferry Crossing took years longer than promised
PfG promise: ‘The Queensferry Crossing is the biggest transport infrastructure project in Scotland for a generation. It is being built on time and under budget, with completion due by the end of 2016.’ (Programme for Government, 2014-15, link).
Reality: The bridge did not open until 2017, and in April this year, it was reported that ‘snagging’ work was planned to continue on the bridge until October: over 18 months after opening (Scotsman, 20 April 2019, link).
- After three years, the National Culture Strategy has not been completed
PfG promise: We will commence work on a National Culture Strategy which will be based on the principles of access, equality and excellence. (Programme for Government, 2016-17, link).
Reality: The most recent development is the publication of a draft cultural strategy in June 2018. The Scottish Government only now commits to publish a final strategy in 2019. (gov.scot, accessed 26 August 2019, link).
- A cultural youth experience fund has been promised three times but is nowhere to be found
PfG promise: ‘During the next year we will begin preparatory work with partners for establishing a Youth Experience Fund, so that all primary schools have the opportunity to visit Scotland's theatres, museums, galleries and historic estates.’ (Programme for Government, 2017-18, link).
Reality: This was re-promised in the 2017 Programme for Government as part of 2018’s ‘Year of Young People’. It was promised again in the 2018 Programme for Government with a commitment to fund projects in 2019. No announcement of the fund has since been made. (Programme for Government, 2017-18, link; Programme for Government, 2018-19, link).
- The SNP have failed to tackle drug driving for two years
PfG promise: ‘this year, we will…create a new criminal offence of drug driving’ (Scottish Government, Programme for Government 2017-18, page 15, link).
Reality: The legislation was eventually laid in January 2019 - but won’t come into force until October. The SSI was published on 15 January 2019, and will come into force in October 2019. This is over two years after it was first promised. (Justice Committee, Report on the Drug Driving (Specified Limits) (Scotland) Regulations 2019, February 2019, link).
- The SNP failed to start work to widen the use of victim impact statements in court
PfG promise: ‘we will…widen the range of serious crimes where the victim can make a statement to the court about how the crime has affected them physically, emotionally and financially, consulting on specific details by early 2019.’ (Scottish Government, Programme for Government 2018-19, page 16, link).
Reality: The SNP launched the consultation in September 2019, with two days to go until this year’s Programme for Government. (Scottish Government, 1 September 2019, link).
- The SNP have failed to deliver a key aspect of Michelle’s Law – improving victims’ rights before prison release
PfG promise: ‘we will…ensure victims and their families have better information and greater support ahead of prison release arrangements.’ (Scottish Government, Programme for Government 2018-19, page 16, link).
Reality: The latest work plan for the Victims’ Taskforce shows that work was still ‘ongoing’ as of June 2019. There is no evidence that victims and/or their families have had greater say ahead of Temporary Release. (Scottish Government, Victims Taskforce – Work Plan, 12 June 2019, link).
- The SNP failed to move forward with new domestic abuse protective orders
PfG Promise: ‘We will consult in the autumn on further protections for those at risk of domestic abuse through new protective orders’ (Scottish Government, Programme for Government 2018-19, page 17, link).
Reality: The consultation wasn’t launched until December 2018. (Scottish Government, 21 December 2018, link).
- The SNP have failed to introduce the family law Bill they promised
PfG promise: ‘Bills for introduction in 2018-19….Family Law Bill’. (Scottish Government, Programme for Government 2018-19, page 25, link).
Reality: No such Bill has been introduced. (Scottish Parliament, Current Bills, link).
- The SNP have failed to introduce Finn’s Law or increase sentences for the worst types of animal cruelty
PfG promise: introduce increased sentences for the worst types of animal cruelty, including attacks on police dogs, an initiative known as ‘Finn’s Law’ (Programme for Government, 2018 – 2019, link).
Reality: SNP have only consulted on increasing sentences. The consultation closed in April 2019. (Scottish Government, link).
- An SNP run council has scrapped funding for Frank’s Law
PfG Promise: ‘implement Frank’s Law, which will see people of all age groups who need it be eligible for free personal care by April 2019’ (Program for Government, 2018-19, link).
Reality: The South Ayrshire Joint Integration Board – which is in health secretary Jeane Freeman’s home patch – had set aside £315,000 to pay for the initiative this year, but has now decided to rescind that. It is unclear if or how under 65s in the area who qualify will now be helped, although the council said existing resources could be called upon. Ms Kopel said she was ‘disgusted, appalled and sickened’ by the decision and questioned why the SNP had previously announced it ‘in a blaze of glory’ (Daily Record, 9 July 2019, link).
- SNP’s drive to recruit mental health workers is falling woefully short
PfG promise: ‘As part of the implementation of Scotland’s new Mental Health Strategy, we will provide additional investment over the next five years, rising to £35 million in the fifth year for 800 extra workers in key locations, including police and justice settings’ (Program for Government, 2017-18, link).
Reality: The SNP’s commitment to hire an extra 800 mental health workers is falling woefully short and will miss the target unless changes are made. Research by the Scottish Conservatives has found just 106 additional psychiatric staff have been recruited as part of an SNP government drive since it was announced two years ago. That’s despite a pledge to bring in eight times that number by the end of 2021/22 (Evening Express, 27 March 2019, link).
Environment and Energy
- SNP missing key recycling target by 12 years
PfG promise: “Recycle 70 per cent of all waste, with just 5 per cent sent to landfill, by 2025.” (Programme for Government, 2012-13, link).
Reality: The SNP are on course to miss their own recycling target by 12 years. The SNP has committed to recycling 60 per cent of household rubbish by 2020. However, between 2011 and 2017, the percentage of recycled household waste has only risen from 40.1 per cent to 45.6 per cent. If annual increases continue in the same trend, it will take until 2032 to meet the target (The Herald, 11 November 2018, link).
- The SNP’s public energy company is behind schedule
PfG promise: Later this year we will consult on our preferred model for a publicly-owned not-for-profit energy company, to support our efforts to tackle fuel poverty.
Reality: Plans for the SNP’s not-for-profit energy company are already months behind schedule. Paul Wheelhouse revealed that work on a strategic outline business case has only just started. He also outlined that plans to gauge public opinion, which were supposed to start in August 2018, will now not begin until this year (The Sun, 11 November 2018, link; Scottish Parliament, Question S5W-19519, 7 November 2018, link).
- SNP are on course to miss their renewable heat target
PfG promise: “the equivalent of 11 per cent of heat demand from renewables” (Programme for Government, 2012-13, link).
Reality: The Scottish Government are not on course to meet their heat target of 11 per cent from renewables. In 2017, only 5.9 per cent of heat demand was generated from renewables (Scottish Government, 2017, link).
- Delivering Scotland's biodiversity strategy and meeting Aichi 2020 Targets
PfG promise: ‘We remain committed to delivering Scotland’s biodiversity strategy and striving to meet the ‘Aichi’ 2020 international targets.’ (Programme for Government, 2018-19, link).
Reality: Only on course to meet 7 of the 20 targets (Scottish Parliament, 2 August 2019, link).
- The SNP have reneged on their promise to introduce a Good Food Nation Bill
PfG promise: The SNP promised a Good Food Nation Bill in their manifesto, and again in both the 2016 and 2017 Programmes for Government. In January 2018, Fergus Ewing set out his commitment to the Bill in response to a question in the Chamber. (SNP Manifesto 2016, link; Programme for Government 2016 - 2017, link; Programme for Government 2017 – 2018, link; Scottish Parliament Official Report, 25 January 2018, link; Programme for Government 2018 – 2019, link).
Reality: The 2018 Programme for Government contained a watered-down version of the promise for legislation, setting out only a commitment to publish a Good Food Nation programme. A ‘programme of measures’ was published in September 2018 ( Scottish Government, Programme for Government 2018 – 2019, link; Scottish Government, Good Food Nation: programme of measures, 11 September 2018, link).
- The SNP have failed to introduce fisheries legislation
PfG promise: “We will introduce a Bill during this Parliamentary session to underpin new management structures and establish the foundations for a more secure and sustainable future for wild fisheries.” (Programme for Government, 2016 – 17, link).
Reality: Not achieved yet but committed to this session. Will need to be introduced in 2019 PfG.
- The SNP are on course to miss their own target to roll out super-fast broadband
PfG promise: “driving forward the ‘Reaching 100%’ project to deliver access to superfast broadband to all residential and business premises by 2021” (Programme for Government, 2017 – 18, link); “…we will now award contracts for the first phase of our Reaching 100% programme.” (Programme for Government, 2018-19, link).
Reality: Paul Wheelhouse admitted it was ‘impossible’ to say when R100 would arrive. This announcement came shortly after the SNP revealed that the bidding process for the R100 programme will be delayed until the end of September 2019, with contract signature by the end of the year, leaving an impossibly short time for delivery. This latest example of SNP mismanagement risks leaving our remote and rural communities at a significant disadvantage (The Herald, 12 June 2019, link; The Herald, 8 June 2019, link; Scottish Parliament, Question S5W-23670, 7 June 2019, link).