Nicola Sturgeon branded her political opponents “infantile” for claiming the SNP Government fell short of promises to improve infrastructure in the north and north-east.
The SNP leader made the provocative comment as she delivered a series of big-ticket pledges in her party’s pitch for the May 6 election.
Ms Sturgeon’s overall plans include a 20% increase in health spending, a five-year freeze on income tax rates and bands and the scrapping of NHS dentistry charges.
She also confirmed support for the Dundee Eden Project – an attraction expected to bring millions of visitors to the city – and cash for the transition from oil and gas to renewable energy in Aberdeen.
Ms Sturgeon vowed to increase government-supported childcare to one and two-year-olds, spend £800 million on social care funding and invest £33 billion over five years on infrastructure.
We revealed on Thursday how the SNP also aim to support rural or remote communities, including a plan offer up to £50,000 in “island bonds” supporting young people and families to stay where population decline is a risk.
Opposition parties said previous commitments were missed and rural areas have been let down.
‘Life is about progress’
Launching her official election manifesto later, Ms Sturgeon said: “It really is facile and infantile. We don’t have any government anywhere in the world that does everything it could ever possibly want to do or imagine doing on day one.
“Life is about progress, government is about progress. We have made significant progress over the past 14 years.
“Go back and look at health, education, across the economy, across infrastructure, particularly now we’ve built 100,000 affordable homes. The commitment at this election is another 100,000 homes.
“In the past four years we have created nine times, proportionately, the number of houses for social rent in Scotland than have been in England – so we’ve made progress.”
Ms Sturgeon said more details will follow on the “islands bond” proposal, but added: “This is an innovative, pioneering way to try to reverse depopulation of some of our remotest islands.”
Elsewhere, the SNP leader repeated her aim for another independence referendum “after” the pandemic crisis but within the next parliamentary session.
She said the pandemic has given Scotland the chance to “build a better nation”.
She added: “As we recover, we have the opportunity to reimagine our country. In this manifesto the SNP is setting out a serious programme for serious times.
“It is practical but unashamedly optimistic and it is transformational in its ambition.”
The First Minister’s critics repeatedly warned against holding another vote on independence while Scotland is still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, for fear of distracting government and the public from the task at hand.
Ms Sturgeon also said there would be no basis for rejecting another referendum on the part of the UK Government if a “simple majority” of independence-supporting MSPs are elected next month.
“After this election, if there is a simple, democratic majority in the Scottish Parliament for an independence referendum, there will be no democratic, electoral or moral justification whatsoever for Boris Johnson or anyone else to block the right of people in Scotland to decide their own future,” she said.
‘People aren’t daft’
Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson hit out at the “giveaways that the SNP have been springing out of hats” during the election campaign.
She said: “People aren’t daft, they wonder, ‘you’ve been in government for 14 years, why are you telling us now you’ve not given enough to the NHS’.
“How cynical is this to wheel it out three weeks before an election, but not to have done the hard yards when you have been in government for 14 years.”
Liberal Democrat candidate Molly Nolan, standing in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said the cash promise for islanders was “ill thought through”.
She said: “The SNP have failed to sort out structural rural issues over the past 14 years – connectivity, healthcare, social-affordable housing, sustainable jobs – so they’ve resorted to bunging cash at a few families instead.
“This ill thought through policy sums up this government’s attitude to rural and remote Scotland. Instead of tackling the infrastructure challenges islanders face, the SNP is attempting to just buy them off.
“This is not a long-term solution and it will not create the sustainable change we need. If anything, it will only foster more inequality.”