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Wednesday, April 7, 1999 Published at 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK

Scottish Conservative Party

The Scottish Conservative Party has launched its election manifesto with seven pledges to the people of Scotland.

The party, which opposed devolution but now endorses it in the light of overwhelming support for reform in the 1997 referendum, conceded it has been perceived as out of touch, divided and arrogant in the past.

However, it says it has learned from its mistakes to present the most radical agenda for the new parliament.

Scottish Conservative Party

Manifesto in full

The Scottish Tories leader, David McLetchie, says his party has risen to the challenge of devolution and is committed to "Putting Scotland First" in the union.

The Scottish Tories say they will oppose any moves towards independence but will seek to extend devolution and decentralisation within Scotland.

The party says it is committed to cutting waiting times for patients and cutting bureaucracy by abolishing health boards, primary care trusts and large GP co-operatives.

It says it wants to see decision making devolved to local GP surgeries and hospitals developed into centres of excellence.

The Scottish Tories want to see the introduction of "modern matrons" as visible ward leaders in hospitals.

Scottish Tories say they will oppose any tax increases proposed within the Scottish Parliament. They claim voters are already being penalised through "stealth taxes" including the windfall tax and increases in national insurance and taxation on petrol.

The party says it will ease the burden and has also expressed opposition to plans to "destroy" the Uniform Business Rate.

The party has pledged opposition to road tolls, city entry charges for motorists and parking taxes. It says it will campaign for "fair" petrol prices throughout Scotland and a rejuvenated programme of road improvements.

The Scottish Tories say a clean environment and economic development should go hand-in-hand.

They will support co-operation between Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels on environmental measures.

The party says Combined Heat and Power pilot schemes should be investigated and diverse sources of energy, including renewable and nuclear energy, supported.

The party pledges to end tuition fees for Scottish students, replacing them with a Saltire Award of credit worth a minimum of 1,000 per year. This, it says, will give students a real say in which universities they attend.

The money would go to the institution and not to the government, which currently receives tuition fee money.

It says it will restore the right of parents to choose which nursery school their children attend. This will be done through nursery vouchers equivalent to the value of a full-time place.

The party says new Local Schools Boards, funded by the Scottish Parliament, should take over the local authority role of running schools.

Law and Order
The Scottish Tories say the new parliament must demonstrate zero tolerance towards drug abuse and drug dealers.

They say a new indictable offence of Home Violation should be created for house breaking crimes, with the punishment reflecting the seriousness of the crime.

They want an end to "cuts" in the victim support scheme in Scotland and the necessary funding to ensure efficient and accountable police forces.

The party also advocates setting up a Parliamentary Committee to review all aspects of the criminal justice system.

The party wants all council housing stock moved to local housing associations and co-operatives with the aim of giving tenants "a real say" in the management of their homes.

Private sector investment would be encouraged to effect repairs and renovations.

The Scottish Tories say local housing providers would be required to provide a minimum of 5% of sheltered accommodation in any new development.

The party says it will support extension of the Rough Sleepers Initiative.

The Scottish Tories have pledged support for the new parliament and a "new relationship" between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

They are staunchly opposed to independence and say a successful Scottish Parliament will blunt the nationalists' separatist ambitions.

The party says any decision on joining the European single currency should not be taken without full consideration of the implications for Scotland.

It warns that a European Central Bank's influence on Scotland's economy would be detrimental to the country and would lead to the abolition of Scottish bank notes.

Scottish Tories say government adherence to the European Working Time Directive is costing businesses and will ultimately cost jobs.

The Scottish Tories support the decentralisation of the institutions of government to cities and towns throughout Scotland.

The party wants to see support for Scotland's agriculture and fishing industries, with the setting up of a powerful Agriculture Committee and an end to European fisheries policies, which, it says are hurting Scottish fishermen.

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