Basic goal of improving lives ‘posted missing’ at Westminster – Yousaf

The goal of improving lives has been “posted missing” by the two major parties at Westminster, Humza Yousaf has said.

The First Minister spoke at the London School of Economics (LSE) on Tuesday, describing the Tory approach to the next election as a “complete and utter scorched earth policy”.

Mr Yousaf also took aim at Brexit, claiming the Scottish Government could have £1.6 billion more to spend on public services if the UK was still in the EU – although the group which conducted the research he quoted has disputed that figure.

“Sadly, when I look at the two main Westminster parties, that basic goal that should be at the heart of every political leader’s priorities, that basic goal of improving people’s lives and of a better future, well, that priority seems to have been posted missing,” he said.

“Instead, we have a Conservative Government – a Tory party – that shamefully seems intent on fighting the next UK election as a divisive culture war – a complete and utter scorched earth policy from a party that knows it’s on its way out of power.

“Labour, meanwhile, is purposely dialling down expectation on what can be achieved.

“Their offer amounts to no more than managing decline but just doing that in a more competent way than the Conservatives.”

The First Minister said it is a “real tragedy” that Sir Keir Starmer’s party is so far ahead in the opinion polls but “lack any vision”.

He added: “If ever there was a time to be bold, if ever there was a time to present a radical policy proposition, then surely that time is now.”

Scottish Tory deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: “Humza Yousaf has some cheek to talk about any leader not focusing on people’s priorities.

“He’s all too happy to pursue his independence obsession to the detriment of everything else and the real challenges facing Scots.

“In swathes of seats across Scotland at the General Election, only the Scottish Conservatives can stop the SNP and Humza Yousaf and ensure the focus will be back on people’s real priorities such as cutting NHS waiting times and growing the economy.”

Mr Yousaf went on to claim the full fiscal powers of independence and membership of the EU will boost living standards in Scotland, as he said Scotland is worse off as a result of leaving the bloc.

“In Scotland, I believe there is broad public agreement that Brexit has damaged the economy and public services, and that it should be reversed,” he told the audience.

“Yet at Westminster there is agreement between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer that the UK should stay out of both the EU and the huge European single market – whatever the cost.”

The country, according to data from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR), the First Minister said, shows Scotland was £1.6 billion worse off in 2023 due to leaving the EU.

But NIESR deputy director Stephen Millard told the PA news agency the First Minister’s estimate was “a little high” and the figure was likely closer to “around £1.2 billion”.

Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: “After 17 years of government, the SNP is still attempting to pin its failures on anyone but itself.

“The SNP and the Tories have worked hand in hand to divide communities, run down public services and wreck our economy – and Scotland deserves better than both of them.

“The next general election is a chance to reject this broken status quo and vote for change with Labour.

“This is not as good as it gets – Labour will deliver the change Scotland needs by making work pay, driving down bills, renewing our public services and delivering economic growth.”