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9 pledges from Humza Yousaf’s SNP conference speech

The SNP leader made multimillion-pound promises to freeze council tax, cut NHS waiting times and support the economy.

Humza Yousaf listed millions of pounds of new pledges at SNP conference.

Households across Scotland will have their council tax frozen next year as part of a series of SNP conference spending plans announced by Humza Yousaf.

The SNP leader reeled off a list of eye-catching and expensive promises for the NHS, the energy sector and arts during his first party conference speech in Aberdeen on Tuesday.

Independence was at the centre of Mr Yousaf’s rallying call to SNP supporters, as were swipes at Conservatives and Labour.

Here are nine big pledges announced by the first minister as he attempts to make his mark in the top job.

1. Council tax freeze next year

Mr Yousaf said his government will freeze council tax in all 32 local authorities next April.

It means rates will not rise during a cost-of-living crisis, nearly two years after the policy was scrapped.

In July, we revealed 95,000 households across Tayside and Fife were at risk of being hit by “bombshell” tax rises.

The move immediately rang alarm bells by council leaders who were caught by surprise.

Patrick Harvie. Image: PA

They will now have to negotiate with the government to receive a fair funding settlement to balance heavily strained budgets.

It also tees up a fight between the SNP and Scottish Greens – who share power in the Scottish Government.

Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater, the Green co-leaders who hold ministerial posts, were not consulted in advance and only learned about the surprise hours before it was announced.

2. Extra £100 million each year to tackle NHS waiting times

Waiting lists will be tackled with £300 million over the next three years.

Patients in Scotland regularly face long delays before they receive crucial care.

Mr Yousaf announced £100 million each year to improve resilience and strengthen capacity.

He admitted: “Too many people are still waiting too long for treatment.”

3. £500 million for new offshore wind supply chain

Mr Yousaf announced he will provide £500 million for a chain of new offshore wind farms.

The investment is a boost for the north-east, which Mr Yousaf said it being treated as a cash cow by Westminster.

The SNP leader admitted oil and gas jobs remain vital to the economy but said renewables will offer “sustainable” opportunities for the future.

4. £500,000 for women to leave abusive partners

Women’s support groups will get half a million pounds to support victims of domestic abuse.

Fife will be included in a pilot featuring five local councils across Scotland with the highest rates of homelessness among women.

He told the audience: “All of us in this hall care about equality.

“But often, women feel they cannot leave their abusive partner because they do not know how they will feed themselves or their children.”

Kate McCormack, chief executive of Fife Women’s Aid, said: “We  are delighted to be part of this important and helpful initiative.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf.

5. Arts budget doubles over five years

Arts and cultural groups will benefit from plans to more than double investment in the over the next five years – around £100 million in total.

Mr Yousaf’s show of support comes after a £6.6 million cut to arts agency Creative Scotland was re-imposed last month.

The first minister said the major cash boost was a “huge vote of confidence” in the country’s creative industries.

6. Support for Eden Project

The first minister reaffirmed his support for a major scheme to regenerate the former gasworks on Dundee’s East Dock Street.

Mr Yousaf told party members the ambitious Eden Project will be a “beacon for regeneration and green tourism”.

He said: “In Dundee, a city close to my heart, the SNP will support the superb regeneration of the disused gas works into a new Eden Project.”

7. International bond market

Mr Yousaf is changing the way money is borrowed for big infrastructure projects in Scotland, in a move he framed as building the foundations of a nation state.

Bonds are used to raise money, with buyers owed the value of the bond plus interest over a set period.

Mr Yousaf said this would be “subject of course to due diligence and market testing” and would enable the Scottish Government to fund “vital infrastructure” such as affordable housing.

He said: “In doing so, we will show the world not only that we are a country to invest in today – we will also demonstrate the credibility to international markets that we will need when we become an independent country.”

8. Help refugees from Gaza

Mr Yousaf spoke to party members about the plight of his relatives currently stuck in Gaza. The horrific situation has been a difficult backdrop to the run-up to conference.

His wife Nadia El-Nakla’s parents, who live in Dundee, remain trapped in the devastated city.

Humza Yousaf embraces wife Nadia El-Nakla after she spoke on an emergency motion on Israel-Palestine during SNP conference. Image: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.

Talking about the situation again, Mr Yousaf called on a worldwide refugee programme to be launched for Palestinians forced to flee their home country due to the conflict.

He said Scotland was eager to offer sanctuary to those in need – but blasted “extremist” Tory ministers who have talked tough on migration.

9. Independence plans

At the heart of Mr Yousaf’s speech was his desire to see Scotland become an independent nation.

On Sunday, the first minister’s new strategy for exiting the union was approved by the SNP grassroots.

The SNP leader wants to begin negotiations for independence if his party wins a majority of Scottish seats at the next Westminster election.

Ending his speech, he urged everyone to continue the push for the party’s ultimate goal – declaring: “let us make it happen”.