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Highlights from the Scottish Parliament Election Manifestos

We’ve analysed the Scottish Parliament Election Manifestos from the Scottish Conservative Party, Scottish Green Party, Scottish Labour Party, Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish National Party, to identify pledges and policy proposals that may affect Scotland’s digital technology companies. We merely present and summarise the content of the manifestos without judging them or recommending any voting decisions.

All parties pledge to improve Scotland’s digital infrastructure, mainly by extending superfast broadband coverage. Labour wants to make this extension a national infrastructure priority and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats support a universal service obligation for broadband. Labour promises to invest £500m in broadband infrastructure until 2021; the Conservatives pledge an additional £5m every year for the Community Broadband fund and the Liberal Democrats plan to treble this fund. The SNP and the Conservatives commit to delivering high-speed broadband to everyone (100% coverage). The Greens want a particular focus on faster roll-out in remote and hard-to-reach places. Labour also proposes to “establish broadband zones for digital and creative industries with speeds of 1GB/s” and the creation of an “innovation fund to improve mobile coverage”.

In terms of economic development, some parties want to support the digital industry in particular. The Greens plan to invest in sustainable industries and services, including digital and creative industries. The SNP chose “creative industries, including digital” as one of the six key sectors they would like to focus their support on. They also plan to develop a “national programme to boost productivity through innovation” involving joint research and development initiatives between academia and businesses and a new innovation prize. New Innovation and Investment Hubs in London, Dublin and Brussels and a threefold increase in exporting advisors are also proposed by the SNP, and Labour promises to introduce a Digital Services Bill to make Scotland a world leader in e-government and boost Scottish IT businesses.

Labour and the SNP want to do more to tackle late invoice payments to support small to medium sized enterprises, especially. Labour also proposes the introduction of a minister for micro-businesses, small businesses and entrepreneurs, whereas the SNP wants to set up a scale-up programme for start-up companies.

The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour and the SNP all intend to make changes to business rates. The Conservatives propose a freeze until the rates system has been fully reviewed and the Liberal Democrats also support a full review of the system. Labour wants to preserve the exemption from business rates for small businesses and potentially expand this. The SNP also supports such an expansion with the goal to exempt 100,000 premises.

Several parties commit to increasing the number of apprenticeships. Labour and the SNP both want 30,000 new apprenticeships each year, and the Conservatives are calling for 10,000 additional apprenticeship starts every year by 2021. Labour pledges to “establish a software development and coding apprenticeship path”. The Greens pledge to increase funding for apprenticeships and the Liberal Democrats want to get businesses more involved in the development of apprenticeship programmes.

The Conservatives also propose more “smaller, bite-sized training opportunities and financial support for internship schemes” and the SNP plans to “encourage small and medium enterprises and start-up companies to offer work placements, modern apprenticeships, and paid internships”. To help women update skills and knowledge and get back into their career after a break, the SNP proposes to pilot ‘returnships’ with large employers, building on examples in the USA.

Turning to schools, the SNP and the Conservatives plan to develop new routes for high-achieving graduates to move into teaching. Labour pledges to provide funding for primary school teachers to go on a basic coding course and to create a national coding competition for schools. The Greens are calling “for transferable digital skills to be taught in schools” and for the school curriculum to reflect modern industries such as computer programming and technological innovation. The SNP promises to develop a “STEM strategy [that] will offer young people qualifications, knowledge and training in key economic sectors with known skills gaps”, including digital technology. To promote digital skills more generally, Labour wants to invest £50m to tackle the digital skills gap in the workplace and in communities.

The Conservatives plan to develop at least 10 additional skills academies and the SNP will “examine the feasibility of establishing further skills academies to address key skills shortages, based on the widely welcomed CodeClan model.”

The Greens are calling for “an independent public Technology and Society Forum” to protect citizens’ digital rights and push public authorities to routinely publish their public data in easily usable formats. The Liberal Democrats want to protect citizens’ data better by developing “the approach taken in Estonia where data is considered to belong to the citizen and where people have the right to know who has accessed their information.”

A more detailed version of this analysis is available by contacting Svea Miesch, Research and Policy Manager, at 0150647200 or

Links to all analysed manifestos are available here:  
Scottish Conservative PartyManifesto
Scottish Green PartyManifesto
Scottish Labour PartyManifesto
Scottish Liberal DemocratsManifesto
Scottish National PartyManifesto

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