Scotland ‘central’ to Labour’s mission for government

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Scotland ‘central’ to Labour’s mission for government

Katy Scott,BBC Scotland reporter

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Sir Keir Starmer has pledged to make Scotland “central to the mission” of a Labour government.

The Labour leader outlined his vision at a Scottish campaign launch event in Glasgow ahead of the general election on 4 July.

Sir Keir said Scotland needed to be a “leading voice” at a time of “chaos and division”.

During his first campaign visit on Thursday Prime Minister Rishi Sunak criticised the SNP’s record in government.

But Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes said the election came at a good time for the party and enabled it to outline “a real prospectus for change”.

Sir Keir was joined by his Scottish counterpart Anas Sarwar on Friday at an event in the city’s Gorbals area.

The Labour leader pledged to stabilise the country’s economy, protect workers and create “tens of thousands of jobs” by basing a new publicly-owned power company, called Great British Energy, north of the border.

“This is going to be a change election, but there isn’t any change without Scotland,” he said.

“Scotland is central to my mission to change Britain for the better.

“There’s no Labour without Scotland.”

Labour, which currently has two Scottish MPs, are ahead in the opinion polls overall and could stand to win 35 seats in Scotland.

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During the launch, Sir Keir was critical of the SNP and its call to “send a message” to Westminster.

He said: “Spinning round and round with nothing material delivered – 17 years of the SNP, 14 years in Westminster, chaos and division feeding chaos and division.”

Sir Keir told the audience the Labour Party had been put back in the service of working people.

He added: “We’re a changed party and we now have the opportunity to kick the Tories out but you have to take that opportunity by voting Labour.

“The SNP isn’t going to change and the Tories aren’t going to change.

“Only Labour can stop the chaos and turn the page.”

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Sir Keir Starmer was joined by Labour candidates at the campaign launch event

Mr Sarwar joined the UK leader in telling the audience how the country was “desperate” for a general election and Scotland was “crying out for change”.

He said that Scotland “can lead the way” in “getting rid” of the Tory government.

The Glasgow MSP added: “Every vote for Scottish Labour is a vote to get rid of the Tories, a vote to maximise Scotland’s influence and a vote to deliver the change Scotland needs.”

Mr Sarwar also addressed those who have not voted Labour in the past, saying that he and Sir Keir had worked “day and night” so the party was ready to serve again.

‘Split independence vote’

The Scottish Greens will formally launch their campaign later on Friday.

The party said it would have at least 31 candidates across the country, which would be a record.

Earlier this week co-leader Lorna Slater told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Having Scottish Greens in the room at every hustings, at every media event, means that the climate and nature emergencies get a look-in because without us there they tend to get forgotten altogether.”

She also dismissed concerns that the number of Green candidates might split the pro-independence vote, saying it was “kind of neither here nor there” as the independence movement was “larger than any one political party”.

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Kate Forbes said voters would favour John Swinney as a good leader for the country

Meanwhile, speaking to the Today programme, Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes said that the election had been announced during a “really good period of unity” for the SNP.

It follows the unopposed election last month of First Minister John Swinney as the party’s new leader.

She said: “I think the campaign offers us the chance to set out a real prospectus for change and not just the Westminster consensus that flips from Tories and Labour.

“As John Swinney said yesterday, a Labour government is usually followed by a Tory government which tends to last longer.”

Ms Forbes said rural Scotland was struggling with exports due to Brexit and people needed SNP MPs who understood their issues and would stand up for them in Westminster.

“My message is that you can count on the SNP to stand up for rural Scotland, we understand it and we will always have your back,” she added.

Mr Swinney previously criticised the decision to hold a general election as Scottish schools begin their summer break as the “latest act of disrespect” from the UK government.

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited the Global Energy Group facility at the Port of Nigg in the Highlands on Thursday

However, during his first visit to Scotland on the election campaign on Thursday, the prime minister insisted 4 July was the right time for an election.

On the issue of school holidays, Rishi Sunak said the “most important question” was the state of Scottish education under the SNP’s leadership in Scotland.

He said Scottish schoolchildren had been “let down” by the party.

Mr Sunak added: “Scottish schools used to be the envy not just of the United Kingdom, but the envy of the world.

“But under the SNP government they have plummeted down international league tables compared to schools in England, which have risen up.”

Mr Sunak also acknowledged that things were “very difficult for people in Scotland right now”, but pointed the finger of blame at Scottish income tax rates set by the Scottish government.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross told BBC Scotland constituents had told him they wanted a government focused on improving education, the NHS and the economy.

Elsewhere, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said that his party wanted to increase the digital services tax on social media giants to improve mental health services and help relieve the pressure on GPs.

He also called for more transparency in government, including plans to introduce an accountability bill which would improve transparent record-keeping and “end government by WhatsApp”.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “The Lib Dems want to clean up our politics, both at Holyrood and Westminster.”

The Edinburgh Western MSP also pledged to improve education services and target pollution around the country.

He hailed the party’s success in the most recent local elections in Scotland and England and added: “We’re back, we’re in business and people are coming to us in numbers.”

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