SNP 2024 manifesto: fact checked

14 June 2024

On 19 June, the Scottish National Party (SNP) launched its 2024 general election manifesto

Our fact checking team combed through the 32-page document with the help of Full Fact’s AI tools, and looked at a number of claims.

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Child poverty

Speaking at the manifesto’s launch, Scottish First Minister and SNP leader John Swinney MSP said: “Through measures such as the Scottish Child Payment, we are keeping an estimated 100,000 children out of poverty.”

Modelling estimates this many children will be kept out of relative poverty in 2024/25 by Scottish government policies. Of this number, 60,000 are expected to be kept out of poverty specifically because of the Scottish Child Payment.

Renewable energy

Mr Swinney also claimed at the event that Scotland “has essentially decarbonised” its electricity.

Scotland generates more renewable electricity than all the electricity it uses, but as we’ve written previously, much of that renewable power is exported.

In 2023 about 65% of the electricity Scotland actually used came from renewables. Some 11% came from fossil fuels and a further 23% from nuclear power plants.

Public service spending

The SNP manifesto claims the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) “is clear” Conservative or Labour plans will mean “£18bn of cuts to public services”. However, there’s some uncertainty around this figure.

As we wrote last week, the £18 billion is what the IFS estimated in February was the real-terms spending reductions unprotected government departments could face by 2028/29. But this figure is uncertain as there are no published department spending plans beyond this year. 

In May the IFS said a “reasonable estimate” is between £10 billion and £20 billion by 2028/29.

SNP record

In a section of the manifesto titled ‘Tackle the cost of living crisis’, the SNP makes a number of claims about its record in government in Scotland. 

It says the Scottish government has “frozen council tax across Scotland” and “removed peak fares from our railways”. While this is true, these are not necessarily long-term measures. 

Council tax in Scotland was frozen between 2008/09 and 2016/17. It increased between 2017/18 and 2020/21 (at capped rates), before being frozen again in 2021/22. Rates generally rose in 2022/23 and in 2023/24, and were then frozen again for 2024/25. The Scottish government has not yet said if council tax will be frozen next year. 

The mention of peak fares on Scotland’s railways likely refers to the ScotRail Peak Fares Removal Pilot which is funded by the Scottish Government. This trial began in October 2023, and means customers on ScotRail can use off-peak tickets at any time of day (on routes where off-peak tickets are generally available). The pilot is currently due to end in September 2024

Independence and the EU

In a section on Brexit, the SNP manifesto also says: “Brexit harms will continue no matter who is in charge at Westminster.

“We want a different future. One where decisions are made in Scotland, for Scotland. The SNP is the only party offering people in Scotland that opportunity—and the choice of a better future. 

“We will champion our vision for an independent Scotland in the EU, offering Scotland the opportunity to regain what has been lost as a result of a hard Brexit and harness the opportunities that independence would provide.”

It’s not entirely clear from the wording what the claim about the SNP being “the only party offering people in Scotland that opportunity” refers to. But it would not be correct to suggest that the SNP is the only party in Scotland offering voters the chance to have the opportunity to be independent, and also rejoin the European Union.

The Scottish Green Party and Alba, which are both contesting the general election in Scotland, back independence. And as we’ve written before, other parties in Scotland also support rejoining the EU, chiefly the Scottish Green Party

Alba has said it wants an independent Scotland to join the European Free Trade Association and the European Economic Area, which it says would “enable Scotland to negotiate to become a full member of the EU in due course if the people of Scotland so choose”. And the Liberal Democrats say the party’s “longer-term objective” is EU membership.

A&E performance

The SNP manifesto claimed that Scotland has the “best performing core A&E units in the UK”. Different methods are used by each country to measure A&E waits but it is considered reasonable to compare Scotland, Wales and England.

All four countries in the UK use a ‘four-hour target’, under which 95% of patients should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours of arrival. 

None have met this target recently, but looking at this measure in major 24-hour A&E units, the claim is broadly correct for the most recent comparable data. In April 2024, 64% of such attendances in Scotland were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours. Meanwhile, it was 60.4% in England and 59.4% in Wales.

However, Scotland does not perform as well looking at other A&E criteria. For example, if you look at the four-hour target for all types of A&E units (including minor injury units), Scotland has worse performance than England and Wales—67.4% compared to 74.4% and 70.3% respectively. 

Suncream and caviar

Finally, the SNP manifesto mentions that suncream is subject to VAT, but caviar is not.

This may seem bizarre, but it is true. Caviar—a type of fish egg, traditionally the roe of sturgeon—is not subject to VAT as it is classed as a food, most of which is charged a 0% rate. While it is seen as a luxury food, VAT itself is not a luxury tax.

Suncream meanwhile is generally charged the 20% standard rate of VAT. However, some charities and campaigners have called for VAT to be scrapped on high SPF sunscreen to help cut skin cancer rates. 

GDP and productivity

The SNP manifesto claimed that “both GDP per head and productivity” is “growing faster in Scotland than the UK as a whole”. This is what the data seems to show, but the figures should be treated with some caution.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), Scotland achieved 3.8% “annual growth in ‘real’ GDP per head” in 2022 compared to 3.2% for the UK as a whole. 

However, the ONS told Full Fact this “reflects a drop in the population estimate for Scotland, rather than higher growth in GDP itself”.

This is because the census in Scotland was carried out a year later than censuses of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, affecting the timeline processing population estimates. The ONS explained that although it now has Scotland’s Census figures for 2022, providing data across all the UK nations, the previous estimates for 2012 to 2021 in Scotland have not yet been rebased to align to the new Census figures, as they have been for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The ONS warns in its release “to exercise caution in the use of Scottish GDP per head until the entire time series is available on a consistent basis”.

The claim about productivity appears to come from Scottish Labour Productivity statistics from 2022, which show that between 2008 and 2022, “productivity in Scotland has increased by an average of 1.0% per year” compared to “0.5% per year for the UK as a whole”. 

However, the ONS’s latest data on regional labour productivity for 2021 shows Scotland was 4.7% less productive than the UK average by output per hour, and 5.2% less productive when measuring output per job. 

Although Scotland was the third most productive place in the UK outside of London and the South East, when looking at productivity growth, “Scotland made the greatest negative contribution”.

Recent analysis produced by the CBI-Fraser of Allander Scottish Productivity Index also found “Scotland lagged in 10 of the 13 productivity indicators for which comparable data is available with the rest of the UK.”

The SNP told Full Fact its “point is correct” about productivity growth, pointing to the Scottish Labour Productivity statistics.

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