Scottish party leaders pitch for election votes on first campaign weekend

Home Politics Scottish party leaders pitch for election votes on first campaign weekend
Scottish party leaders pitch for election votes on first campaign weekend

BBC Douglas Ross on a trainBBC

Douglas Ross boarded a steam train in Brechin on the first weekend of campaigning

The leaders of Scotland’s major parties have hit the campaign trail on the first weekend of the general election race.

The SNP, Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservatives and the Scottish Liberal Democrats held events across the country in the early stages of the campaign.

John Swinney, Anas Sarwar, Douglas and Alex Cole-Hamilton have 41 days to make their case to voters before they head to the polls.

The vote will take place on 4 July after prime minister Rishi Sunak’s surprise announcement earlier this week.

The first minister used his event in Glenrothes, Fife, to hone in on the SNP’s anti-austerity message.

He accused the Conservatives of presiding over a “punishing and damaging process” of reduced public spending, adding only his party could exert enough influence at Westminster to ensure the policy is reversed.

However, Mr Swinney denied his handling of the Michael Matheson expenses scandal threatened to overshadow his campaign.

The first minister took aim at the makeup disciplinary panel that recommended a 27-day suspension after the former health secretary racked up an £11,000 charge on a parliamentary iPad during a family holiday.

John Swinney

John Swinney denied the Michael Matheson expenses scandal was overshadowing the SNP’s campaign

He said: “We’re fighting hard to win. We know we’ve got a challenge on our hands, it has been a tough time for the SNP but there’s fresh leadership.

“Right at the heart of this election campaign is the burden of austerity that has undermined the public services of Scotland.

“We’ve had 14 years of austerity from the Conservatives. The Labour party is not proposing to depart from austerity. The only way Scotland can get out of austerity is to have the power to take those decision for ourselves and that only comes about by voting for the SNP.”

Douglas Ross on a train

Douglas Ross said the SNP “obsession” with independence was distracting them from fixing other issues

In Brechin, Angus, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross boarded a steam train as he claimed seats across Scotland would be a “straight fight” between his party and the SNP, who remain the largest party in the country.

He said voters were being “put off” by the scandal surrounding Mr Matheson and claimed the SNP had subjected Scotland to a “decade of division”.

But he denied that the announcement Michael Gove would not stand in the next election – the latest in a string of senior Tory MP’s to do so – was evidence of a lack of confidence in the party’s ability to hold on to power.

He said: “We know that in many, many seats it is going to be a straight choice between the SNP and their obsession with independence and Scottish Conservative candidate that people can unite behind.

“We want to get the focus on investing in our education system, taking down NHS waiting times. We want to see good jobs created in Scotland. We want to grow our economy.

“All of these things have been put on the back burner by the SNP because they have been obsessed and focused on independence.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton

Alex Cole-Hamilton met Lib Dem activists in Bishopbriggs

Alex Cole-Hamilton reaffirmed the Lib Dem ambition to “tear down the acid yellow wall of the SNP”.

He hosted party activists in Bishopbriggs – part of the new Mid-Dunbartonshire seat.

It is one of several redrawn constituencies created as part of last year’s boundary changes.

Its previous incarnation, East Dunbartonshire, was Scotland’s closest-fought seat in the 2019 vote, with the SNP candidate managing to oust the then Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson by 149 votes.

Mr Cole-Hamilton ruled out any kind of coalition with the Conservatives in Westminster, but said he was “supremely confident” the party would return to being the third -largest in the House of Commons.

He said: “We are in great shape, we are very excited about making gains right across Scotland.

“There will be more liberals than nationalists on the green benches of the House of Commons and they are needed.

“We want to fix our broken politics and bring Britain back on the international stage.”

He added: “There are no deals with Labour. We would rule out a deal with the Conservatives, but there’s no pact, no alliances and we have to wait for the electorate to render their judgement.”

Anas Sarwar

Anas Sarwar said Labour wanted to ‘pull people together’ across the UK

Scottish Labour’s leader Anas Sarwar meanshile insisted his party was not interested in a deal with the SNP in order to gain power in the Commons.

He said they, along with the Tories, had been part of a “record of failure” and encouraged “divisive politics”.

He told a campaign event in Wishaw that Labour wanted to “pull the country together” on both sides of the border.

However, he did not rule out any potential deal with the Lib Dems should the vote result in a hung parliament.

He said: “Over the last 14 years, people have been frustrated, they wanted change.

“They haven’t thought Labour has been in a position to deliver it, but over the last three years, I have worked hard to change the Scottish Labour party so it is ready to serve again.

“We’ve been really clear. No ifs, no buts, no deals with the SNP. They have been part of the record of failure that people have seen here in Scotland.

“Keir [Starmer] has already said no deals with the SNP, we’re going flat out for a majority Labour government. What happens after the election, we will obviously have a look at.”

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