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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 April 2007, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Salmond lays out vision for SNP
Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon with backdrop of themselves

Nationalist leader Alex Salmond said his party could hold a second referendum on independence if voters reject the idea the first time.

Speaking at the Scottish National Party's manifesto launch in Edinburgh, he said a referendum on independence remained a key election pledge.

He said priority would be given to cutting primary class sizes and keeping the NHS at the heart of communities.

The SNP also plans to replace the council tax with a local income tax.

Mr Salmond said this would give pensioners and most families the "biggest tax cut in a generation".

What we need is a government that will lead on the people's priorities to build a better, more successful Scotland
Alex Salmond
SNP leader

The local tax would be set at 3p in the pound and high earners would pay more.

Speaking at the launch, Mr Salmond said only the top 10% of earners would pay more under their system.

He said: "The council tax is deeply oppressive, deeply unfair. We see that, virtually everyone in Scotland I meet knows that.

"It's wrong and we're going to abolish it."

He said the local income tax, based on earnings, would be "inherently a much, much fairer system than a charge based on property prices".

However, it is unclear as to whether Scotland would still get the money it currently receives from the Treasury for council tax benefits.

Alex Salmond at Wallace Monument with Saltire
The SNP has renewed its pledge to scrap the council tax

The SNP leader added that the proposed new tax would only apply to earned income, so would not include savings.

The party also proposes to raise the police presence in communities and a 20% increase in funding for drugs treatment as well as 10m for drugs education in schools.

The manifesto restates the party's opposition to new nuclear power stations, pledging a 98m investment in renewable power.

The SNP also proposes;

  • a 50% increase in the provision of free nursery education for three and four-year-olds
  • a patient rights Bill, with waiting time guarantees
  • and direct elections to Scotland's health boards so local people can be more involved in healthcare decisions.

The Nationalists would also abolish tolls on the Forth and Tay bridges and give first-time buyers a 2,000 grant to help them own their own home.

"What we need is a government that will lead on the people's priorities to build a better, more successful Scotland," Mr Salmond added.

READ THE MANIFESTO

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He said that if voters rejected the idea of independence in 2010 there could be another referendum if the people of Scotland supported the SNP in a subsequent election.

Mr Salmond said the manifesto represented "a programme and a case for Scotland, a can-do programme for Scotland. A programme of fresh thinking and new ideas and a programme for a real Scottish government".

He added that he hoped it would give the SNP the track record and credibility in government that the party needed to win an independent referendum.

To implement the manifesto policies, Mr Salmond said his preference would be to form a coalition government.

England's pal

But he refused to rule out the possibility of a minority SNP administration.

"I would go into those negotiations anticipating success, because my preference is for coalition government," Mr Salmond said.

"I'm not making a condition of a coalition, other parties who don't believe in independence sign up for independence.

"I'm only asking that they allow the Scottish people to decide the issues."

He also insisted England would be Scotland's "biggest pals" if it became independent.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Salmond speaks about the proposed tax plans





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