Labour leader Starmer to attack SNP infighting as party launch election campaign

Katrine Bussey, PA Scotland Political Editor
·3-min read

Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP are “too busy fighting among themselves to fight for the Scottish people”, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will say on Thursday.

Sir Keir will use a speech to formally launch campaigning for key elections across the UK to attack his rivals and insist Labour is “reconnecting” with voters.

The speech comes after Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister and SNP leader, spent a full day being questioned by MSPs over her Government’s botched handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond.

The row that has erupted within the SNP as a result has seen the former first minister accuse leading figures in the party of being involved in a conspiracy against him – though this has been strenuously denied by his successor.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will claim the SNP are ‘too busy fighting amongst themselves to fight for the Scottish people’. (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will claim the SNP are ‘too busy fighting amongst themselves to fight for the Scottish people’. (Andrew Milligan/PA)

However, with Scottish Parliament elections taking place on May 6 – the same day as votes for the Welsh Assembly and London Mayor – Sir Keir will insist that Scottish Labour’s “brilliant new leader” Anas Sarwar will “focus on what unites Scotland”.

With the coronavirus pandemic still going on, Sir Keir will say: “After everything we’ve been through in the last year, the last thing we need now is more division.

““Yet, in Scotland, the SNP have shown they’re too busy fighting among themselves to fight for the Scottish people. Their 13 years in power has seen child poverty rise and educational standards fall.

“Scotland now has the lowest life expectancy in Western Europe and the highest number of drug deaths.”

He will say: “It’s a record of shame and yet the SNP’s only priority is another divisive referendum.”

The speech comes 11 months after he succeeded Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, with Sir Keir saying since then Labour has “changed” and is “reconnecting with the British people in every region and nation of the United Kingdom.”

Labour is also “working hard to rebuild trust” he will say, adding: “There’s a long way to go but I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved. Whether that’s rooting out the anti-Semitism that had poisoned this party or rebuilding our relationship with British business.

“This is a different Labour Party, under new leadership and we’re making a different offer to the British people.”

He will add: “A vote for Labour is also a vote to unite our country so that we can face the future together.”

Meanwhile, Mr Sarwar will tell the campaign event on Thursday that after coming through the coronavirus crisis, the UK “can’t go back to the old politics of fighting each other, while our NHS loses out on funding”.

Anas Sarwar was elected as the new Scottish Labour leader earlier this year. (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Anas Sarwar was elected as the new Scottish Labour leader earlier this year. (Andrew Milligan/PA)

And he will declare: “Under my leadership we will offer a vision of hope and ambition for the future.

“We won’t talk about what Scotland can’t do; but what we can do.

“We will outline an NHS restart plan, so that our health service never again has to choose between treating a virus or treating cancer.

“We will propose a catch-up plan in our schools, because I won’t let a generation of children go forgotten.

“And we will set out a real vision for jobs, for now and for the future.”

But SNP depute leader Keith Brown said: “A vote for Labour is a vote to let Boris Johnson decide Scotland’s future.

“They’ve made it clear that anyone who supports the right of the Scottish people to choose our own future is not welcome in the party.

“By threatening to block Scotland’s democratic right to hold an independence referendum, Labour are demonstrating the same old arrogant and ignorant approach that has alienated their traditional supporters and led to voters abandoning them in droves.”

He added: “This election is about ensuring we don’t allow Boris Johnson to decide Scotland’s future – and only by giving both votes for the SNP we will ensure that.”