The Courier carried out one of the most in-depth probes into the SNP’s record in government. With the Mitchell Library, we analysed health, education, economy, environment and justice data against the targets set by the government itself. Here, the parties give their verdict on our ‘C’ grading.
Failures over education
By Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour Leader
The single most important investment any government can make is in education, and the single most important policy we can pursue in education is cutting the gap between the richest and the rest in our classrooms.
The Courier’s report card on the SNP Government has gone into a level of depth we haven’t seen before on the SNP’s record – and on attainment the SNP have failed.
We need to give our young people the skills to compete for the jobs of the future, but that won’t happen when the SNP budget cuts hundreds of millions of pounds from schools and public services.
Education has been at the heart of everything I do as Scottish Labour leader. It’s the key to building a stronger economy and a fairer nation.
With the new powers coming to Scotland we don’t have to cut into our future.
That’s why faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in our future or carrying on the SNP’s cuts to schools and services, Labour will use the powers to invest.
We’d cut the gap between the richest and the rest by delivering £1,000 of extra funding for each of the poorest pupils. We’d give that extra funding straight to head teachers, who know how to invest it better than a minister sitting behind a desk in Edinburgh.
We can make these promises because we are the only party being honest about how we are paying for them.
We’ll use the new powers including asking the richest 1% to pay a 50p top rate of tax on earnings over £150,000 a year. That’s a policy the SNP claim to support but won’t implement, using Tory excuses for not acting.
We will use that money to stop the cuts and invest in education.
I think, at a time when tax avoidance by the richest has been exposed on such a wide scale, it’s time to ask the richest to pay their fair share to invest in our future.
Scottish people have been let down
Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservative leader
Scotland needs a strong opposition that is able to properly hold the Government to account.
The Scottish Labour party has had nine years, six leaders and numerous chances to try, and hasn’t really laid a glove on the SNP.
The SNP feels under no pressure at all and thinks it can get away with passing bad laws like Named Person or breaking promises across the board.
That’s one of the reasons The Courier’s report card on the SNP’s record is so important.
It shows where the Scottish Government has let people down – in health, education, policing and transport.
Scottish education is slipping down the international league tables, our economy isn’t growing in the way we would like, our hospital waiting times for A&E are still too high and the single police force, which simply shipped the Strathclyde model to all other parts of Scotland, has left people feeling like they’ve lost their local force.
That’s why I’m asking people in this election to use at least one of their two votes to vote for a strong opposition.
One that can really hold the Government to account.
Me and my Scottish Conservative team will challenge and scrutinise and pressure future governments so never again will they feel that they’ve got a free run, or can spend more time planning a second independence referendum, rather than get on with the job we pay them for; running the country.
A good opposition can make a government better. It keeps it on its toes and makes sure that it really answers to the people of this country.
If, in three weeks’ time, I am returned as the leader of the official opposition, that’s exactly what I’ll do.
I’ll make sure the SNP doesn’t have everything its own way – I’ll question, I’ll challenge, I’ll put them under pressure and, crucially, I’ll make positive suggestions for how this country can work better.
At this election, a strong opposition is possible. You just have to vote for it.
Poor return on promises to voters
Willie Rennie, Scottish Lib Dem leader
The Courier’s comprehensive analysis of the SNP’s record is a great service to the public. The verdict on the last five years is damning.
On justice, we have seen court closures, police stations shut their doors to the public, and the scandal and controversy over the tragic M9 crash.
On climate change, we have some of the toughest climate change targets in the world but they have been missed every year for the past four years.
And in education, the number of college places has been cut and school budgets hammered by the SNP.
International organisations say that we used to have one of the best education systems in the world. Now we are only average. That is not good enough for me. It should not be good enough for anyone.
We need to be the best again.
The Courier’s devastating C grade for the SNP is a poor return on what voters were promised.
For the last five years, Scotland has had a government obsessed with the constitution at the expense of everything else.
Now we need the next five years for schools, for our NHS and public services.
Liberal Democrats have a bold, positive offer that will help Scotland be the best again.
Our plan for a penny on income tax for education would mean half a billion pounds for a transformation in early education and childcare, schools and colleges.
We will take mental health seriously. There are not enough specialist beds for children struggling with mental ill health. They have to wait months for treatment. Lib Dems will double funding so that young people get the help they need.
On the environment, we will boost green travel, support renewables, create warm homes and start meeting Scotland’s carbon emissions targets.
This is the sort of action we need to deliver the A grade that Scotland deserves.
Lack of courage exposed
Maggie Chapman, Scottish Greens co-convener
The SNP need only to have the courage of their convictions.
Throughout the independence referendum Greens agreed with the SNP that we could create a new, bolder Scotland. A Scotland which ends the scourge of inequality, that creates a better future for its children and that cares for all its people.
Too often the SNP have failed to follow through on their beliefs and on the expectations we have of them, by introducing standardised testing in schools, centralising police and fire services, keeping the council tax and failing to use the new tax powers to reduce inequality.
With unprecedented cuts coming from Westminster, we need a parliament that will stand up for the NHS, for our schools and our public services.
Greens will make sure an SNP government stands up against cuts and lives up to the expectations we all have of a better Scotland.
More Greens will make for a bolder parliament that uses the new powers to reduce inequality, to end the council tax, to create future jobs for those who’ve been laid off in oil and gas. And to create a carer’s wage.
The next parliament can deliver the bolder Scotland we all want, and the more Green MSPs there are the more likely that parliament will use the full set of powers to transform our nation.
A proud record to take to electorate
Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister and leader of the SNP
Scotland is a far better country today than when the SNP first came to office in 2007.
We are a more confident nation, more outward-looking and more sure of our place in the world.
That, I firmly believe, is the result of having a government that always puts Scotland first, will never accept second best and which stands up for our industries and communities, protecting jobs and looking for new opportunities to make our country an even better place to live for everyone.
We are also a much more politically aware nation than we have ever been before, with a level of engagement that is higher than it has been for generations.
That is a direct consequence of the independence referendum which, although it did not see the result I passionately advocated, has sparked an awakening in the democratic process, which is a healthy thing regardless of which party or viewpoint individuals support.
Put bluntly, Scotland has grown up a lot as a nation since our national parliament was reconvened 17 years ago.
And, of course, some of that development came in the years before the SNP were elected for the first time. During those years, we had legislation passed on issues like free personal care for the elderly and the ban on smoking in public places – things which we backed in opposition and have been able to build upon in government.
We go into this election proud to stand on our record, because it is a very good one indeed. Our opponents, of course, will claim differently. That is the nature of politics.
But voters across Scotland also know that our record is a good one, which is why they have given such ringing endorsements to the SNP in election after election.
While we take absolutely nothing for granted, and will always strive for improvement, a quick glance at our record shows how much we have delivered in the last nine years.
We have regularly outperformed the UK on jobs, in spite of our limited economic powers and the effects of the financial crash – and our economy enjoys among the highest levels of inward investment in the whole of the UK, while exports have risen and the SNP’s small business bonus has saved companies around £1 billion in total.
We have also protected household budgets through the council tax freeze, saving the average Band D payer around £1,500, as well as abolishing prescription charges and scrapping university tuition fees.
Police numbers have reached a record high, while crime is at a 41-year low, our hospital waiting times performance is far better than anything achieved by the previous administration while we have taken NHS staffing levels to an all-time high and boosted health spending to record levels.
We have also provided a huge boost to green energy while leading the world in climate change ambition – both things that we will seek to build on in the next parliament.
And we have passed historic legislation on same sex marriage, reflecting the more tolerant, inclusive nation Scotland has become.
There is still much to do, and a re-elected SNP Government will continue to try and make life better for everyone in the country, with a particular focus on education and on narrowing the attainment gap between children from the least and most deprived areas – something which I am personally committed to delivering.
When the SNP launch our manifesto next week, people will see a party which has already achieved a huge amount but which is still brimming with ideas and a vision for how to make Scotland better still.