New Scottish Labour MPs will have a key role in helping Anas Sarwar become First Minister

Unless the Tories mount the greatest comeback in UK political history, Labour are almost certain to win the general election and Keir Starmer is heading for Downing Street.

But for Scottish Labour success this year is a means to an end.

Party leader Anas Sarwar wants a Westminster victory to act as a springboard to Labour beating the SNP at Holyrood in 2026.

He hopes sending 20-plus MPs to the Commons - perhaps even 30 - will lead to Scots in Government enacting change and backbenchers pushing Starmer to be bold in his first eighteen months.

Party sources believe the Scottish Labour group at Westminster will become the most high quality in generations.

Former Cabinet Minister Douglas Alexander and ex-Better Together leader Blair McDougall are in line to bolster sitting MPs Ian Murray and Michael Shanks.

Insiders also point to rising stars such as candidates Martin McCluskey, Joani Reid, Kirsty McNeill, Gordon McKee, Melanie Ward and Dr Zubir Ahmed.

So where could an emboldened group of Scottish Labour MPs make a difference and give Sarwar an advantage in the race for Bute House?


Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner -Credit:PA

Deputy leader Angela Rayner’s ‘New Deal for Working People’ is the UK Labour policy Sarwar speaks about the most.

It proposes banning zero hour contracts, providing workers with employment rights from day one, scrapping David Cameron-era trade union laws and ending ‘fire and rehire’.

Sarwar, whose activists have been selling the package on the doorsteps, sees it as a quick win showing how Labour can deliver for people across the UK.

Trade unions appear to have defeated attempts at watering down elements of the policy agenda, but questions remain on when a new law will be passed.

Business groups will have to be consulted and political danger lurks if the Rayner package is not pushed through by the time of the Holyrood election.

Scottish Labour MPs could have an important role in expediting the process.


Oil and gas jobs will be a general election issue
Oil and gas jobs will be a general election issue -Credit:Getty Images/iStockphoto

Central to Starmer’s plan for economic renewal is the creation of the publicly-owned GB Energy - to be based in Scotland.

Labour says it will give the UK “energy independence” and make the country a world leader in floating offshore wind.

Bold claims have also been made about jobs, with Sarwar saying 50,000 alone will come to Scotland in the next decade.

But some Labour sources worry about putting a specific jobs figure into the public domain in case the Government falls short and disappoints voters.

Another risk is if clean energy jobs fail to be created at the same time posts are lost in the oil and gas sector.

A Labour Government will not grant new oil and gas licenses over climate concerns, heaping further pressure on GB Energy becoming a success.

Sarwar has a keen interest in the publicly-owned firm getting off the ground quickly. One insider said there needs to be "spades in the ground" before Holyrood 2026.


Brexit has been a difficult issue for Labour
-Credit:Getty Images

Starmer has been clear any government led by him will not rejoin the customs union, single market or adopt freedom of movement with the EU.

However, a review of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement is due for 2026 - the same year as the Holyrood election.

SNP leader John Swinney will inevitably use these talks to demand big changes from a Brexit deal he believes has been disastrous.

A large Scottish Labour group is also likely to include well-known Europhiles such as Murray - certain to be Starmer’s Scottish Secretary - Shanks and McKee.

Starmer could face pressure from within his own ranks, as well as from the SNP and Lib Dems, to correct the failures of the Tory Brexit deal.

One flashpoint will be the Northern Ireland Protocol, which one Labour source says is "choking off growth" in the Scottish economy as firms tries to export goods.

Starmer will be urged to push renegotiation to the max by strengthening the UK’s trade and security ties to the EU.


Starmer’s handling of the Tory two-child cap could provide Sarwar with a headache ahead of the 2026 poll.

The UK Labour leader has refused to commit to scrapping the curb by claiming money is tight.

By contrast, Sarwar wants the “heinous” policy axed as he believes it fuels child poverty.

If the status quo is maintained by a UK Labour Government, the SNP will use the Holyrood campaign to make Starmer the face of the two child cap.

They would also portray Sarwar as a weak leader who has no influence over Downing Street.

The opportunity for him and his MPs lies in Labour’s commitment to a review of the entire Universal Credit system.

His MPs could ensure this results in the end of the cap as well as a vigorous pro-work agenda that makes people less reliant on social security.


A recurring theme in Sarwar’s speeches is a recognition that Scots have become disillusioned with Westminster.

In an attempt at reaching out to SNP voters, he said: “Is the UK fundamentally broken? Yes it is.”

But this is just as much a reference to political institutions across the UK as it is to the Tory governance of the last fourteen years.

One of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s solutions is to replace the appointed House of Lords with an elected second chamber.

Starmer has not made the Brown plan a priority, but Sarwar has said he would like it delivered in Labour’s first term.

Newly-elected Scottish Labour MPs will have a role in pressing upon Starmer the importance of reforming our politics.

Tony Blair changed the UK with relatively cheap constitutional change in his first two years and Starmer has the same chance.

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