Scottish Labour have learned to treat SNP voters with respect and empathy

The Scottish Labour campaign launch was one of the party’s most buoyant moments in twenty years.

Previous events under former leaders felt like wakes attended by the despondent and the defeated.

This time the air was thick with hope as the prospect of power moved rapidly into view.

It has become a political cliche for Labour leaders to say how important Scotland is to their Westminster campaign.

Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband were never going to win power and Scottish voters saw through their shallow entreaties and voted SNP.

Keir Starmer launches the Scottish Labour general election campaign in Glasgow
Keir Starmer launches the Scottish Labour general election campaign in Glasgow -Credit:Ross Turpie / Daily

But in 2024 Labour could win dozens of seats in Scotland and make an important contribution to a comfortable majority at Westminster.

Scottish Labour returned a solitary MP seat last time, but a recent opinion poll shows they could annihilate the SNP and jump to 35.

A result of this magnitude will lead to more Scots in Government than at any time since the days of Tony Blair.

Starmer is also canny enough to know he faces a far different challenge in Scotland to elsewhere in the UK.

England is a two-horse race between Labour and an increasingly despised Tory party in freefall.

But the SNP, despite undergoing the biggest crisis in their history, remain a formidable political force.

Many independence voters will not support Labour out of principle, but softer nationalists are in play.

This is why the new tone adopted by Anas Sarwar in recent years is important.

Scottish Labour used to come across as a bunch of embittered losers who had contempt for SNP voters.

Urging indy backers to come “home” treated them like teenagers who had run away from their parents.

Sarwar now talks about empathising with pro-independence supporters who have lost hope with Westminster.

He treats them like adults, not children, and the change of approach has rubbed off on Starmer.

Labour in Scotland slumped to 9pc at the last European election and looked like they were going bust.

The election in Scotland is not about whether Labour wins seats off the SNP, but how many.

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