SNP manifesto 2019: fact checked

Published: 27th Nov 2019

This page will feature all our fact checks on the Scottish National Party manifesto for the 2019 general election. As with all our fact checks of party manifestos, we expect to update it on an ongoing basis as we write more about the claims made.

Brexit

The SNP manifesto claims that Conservatives have “placed uncertainty upon Scottish businesses resulting in the Scottish Economy already being £3 billion smaller than it would have been without the Brexit vote”. It’s not possible to firmly establish what would have happened without the Brexit vote, but even the apparent source of this claim does not state that the economy is £3 billion smaller than it would otherwise have been solely due to Brexit

Analysis by the Fraser of Allander Institute at Strathclyde University found that the Scottish economy is 2% smaller (equivalent to £3 billion) than it would have been if it had followed the path forecast before the EU referendum. Although the institute claims that Brexit uncertainty is affecting the performance of the economy and accounts for some of this difference it explicitly states that not all of it “can be explained by Brexit”. 

Economy and trade

 The manifesto also said: “Scotland’s international exports are stronger than ever. Since 2011, our international exports, excluding oil and gas, have increased by over 57% and are now worth £32.4 billion. Of this, almost half were exports to the EU.” 

It is true that Scotland’s international exports were worth £32.4bn in 2017, according to Export Statistics Scotland. However, the increase since 2011 is much smaller than the SNP claims. International exports since 2011 have in fact risen by 19%, not 57%. 

The SNP told us (after this article was first published) that this was an error in the manifesto and the change was since 2007, rather than 2011. Over those ten years international exports, excluding oil and gas, did increase by 57.6%.

The manifesto also says: “Scotland would be ranked 16th in the OECD in terms of GDP per head, higher than the UK, France, Japan or New Zealand”.

This is correct. The OECD is a group of high-income countries, and when comparing the size of their economies on a per person basis the UK currently places 16th among its members.

If Scotland was an independent country, it would slot in just above the rest of the UK in the table to occupy the 16th spot with a GDP per capita of £32,800 ($46,800). 

Police

The manifesto states that “since the SNP took office in Scotland, we have recruited an additional 1,000 police officers”.

The SNP came into power in May 2007. Comparing July-September 2007 with the same period in 2019, the number of police officers has increased by 950 to 17,256. Numbers have actually fallen back very slightly since their peak in 2013 though. 

This is looking at full-time equivalent numbers, meaning two officers who each work half-time would count as one officer in the statistics.

Scotland’s population has also grown during this time, meaning that the number of people per police officer is roughly the same in 2019 (using population projections) as it was in 2007, at around 316. 

The manifesto also claims that police in Scotland have “the best pay deal anywhere in the UK”, pointing to a “6.5% 31 month pay deal in comparison to only 2% for English and Welsh officers in 2018 and 2.5% in 2019.”

Police officers in Scotland received a 6.5% pay increase in September 2018, with those salaries set to apply until 2021. The figures quoted for England and Wales are correct.

Comparing salaries for police constables, it’s fair to say that officers in Scotland are better paid than elsewhere in the UK. A police officer in Scotland is always paid more than someone with the equivalent amount of experience in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland.

The SNP manifesto also claims that “we have increased our total funding for the Scottish Police Authority by £42.3 million”. This refers to the authority’s budget increase in 2019/20, leaving the budget at about £1.2 billion. 

Environment and energy

The manifesto says “Scotland has the world’s most ambitious emissions reductions targets in law.”

In September 2019, Scottish MSPs passed a law putting into place a target of net-zero emissions by 2045, with incremental targets for cutting emissions before that. At the time, the Scottish government said it was “an ambitious new target … the toughest statutory target of any country in the world for this date”. This updated previous legislation from 2009 that said it should reach 80% less than in the 1990s, by 2050.

Countries like the UK, Sweden and New Zealand also have legislation in place for net-zero targets for emissions. Sweden legislated a target to reach net-zero emissions by 2045 too, and they did it two years before Scotland did, in 2017

However, the new Scottish legislation also legislates for specific targets for every year up to 2045, not just the 2045 goal, so it depends on your definition of “most ambitious”. We’re not aware of any countries that have legislated for annual targets for emissions and also have a 2045 goal.

The manifesto goes on to say “Earlier this year, the CCC [Committee on Climate Change] advised that Scotland could reach net-zero emissions by 2045 – five years ahead of the rest of the UK.”

The CCC is a statutory body which advises the government and devolved administrations on environmental issues. In May 2019, the CCC did recommend that Scotland aim to achieve net zero emissions by 2045, “reflecting Scotland’s greater relative capacity to remove emissions than the UK as a whole.” 

It recommended 2050 for the UK as a whole, and a 95% reduction for Wales.

The manifesto says that “the UK Office for Budget Responsibility estimate that oil and gas revenues will be worth £8.5 billion over the five years to 2023-24.”

That was roughly the estimate from the OBR in March 2019 for total oil and gas tax revenues (not just in Scotland) for the period between 2019/20 and 2023/24.

The manifesto says that “Nearly 75% of Scotland’s electricity in 2018 came from renewable sources”. Nicola Sturgeon also said in her speech that three quarters of Scotland’s electricity is generated from renewables. 

The Scottish government has previously reported that the equivalent of 75% of Scotland’s total household electricity consumption was met by renewable sources in 2018. This doesn’t mean that this percentage of electricity used was actually generated by renewable sources.

Universities

The SNP manifesto makes a number of claims about Scotland’s universities, including the fact that Scotland has four of the top 200 universities in the world.

That’s correct, according to QS and Times Higher Education, both of which are well-known prestige ranking bodies. The universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen all appear in the top 200 of both lists. 

That means its also correct to say, as the manifesto continues, that Scotland has the second highest level of top universities per person in the world after Switzerland. Scotland has one top university per 1.4 million people, while Switzerland has seven universities in the top 200, equating to one per 1.2 million people.

The manifesto also says: “we have record numbers of students from poorer backgrounds going to university in Scotland.”

It is correct that there is record number of Scottish students from poorer backgrounds going to universities in Scotland. Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows that the number of people from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland enrolling at a Scottish university has grown since 2013. 



Tourism

The manifesto talked about Scotland’s tourism industry, claiming it is worth around £7 billion to Scotland’s economy. 

Data from the Scottish government says tourism is worth £6 billion, not £7 billion to the economy, though it’s possible the SNP used a different source for its figure and we’ve asked them for more detail. 

International visitor numbers increased year-on-year from 2016 to 2018, though their spending fell slightly last year. 

UPDATE:

Since we published this article we've fact checked the SNP claim that the Barnett Formula was "bypassed" when the UK government gave £1 billion to Northern Ireland after the 2017 election. That's not strictly correct and you can read more about it here.

Update 27 November 2019

This article was updated after the SNP confirmed to us there was an error in their figures on international exports.

Update 28 November 2019

We updated this piece to include the latest police salary figures provided to us by the Scottish Police Authority.

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