SNP has 'undoubtedly' moved to the right under John Swinney, says Anas Sarwar

Anas Sarwar has questioned the sustainability of one million Scots paying more income tax than the rest of the UK
Anas Sarwar was speaking in Glasgow -Credit:Ken Jack/Getty Images

The SNP has "undoubtedly" moved to the right under John Swinney's leadership, Anas Sarwar has said.

The Scottish Labour leader agreed with the Greens that the Nationalists seem to have shifted away from left-of-centre politics.

Green co-leader Patrick Harvie blasted Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes last week and warned Scotland risks returning to "the repressive values of the 1950s".

Forbes said in last year's SNP leadership contest that she would have voted against gay marriage and that couples should not have children outside of wedlock.

Sarwar was speaking in Glasgow as he unveiled a set of plans to reform Holyrood 25 years after the Scottish Parliament was set up.

He said the SNP seems to have moved to the right compared to under Nicola Sturgeon's leadership.

He said: "I think undoubtedly there is a language shift, and perhaps a positioning shift from the SNP, that has shifted more to the right that what was there previously.

"I've got lots of criticisms of Nicola Sturgeon and lots of criticisms of her record, but no one can argue that she was a social policy-led first minister.

"I don't think we're going to get that with this current leadership.

"And neither do I think they have the credible economic plan that's going to give us the growth that we need to deliver.

"And so there's undoubtedly been a shift."

He added: "The SNP can't pretend to be all things for all people anymore. It's done it for a very, very long time. I think they're now being found out."

Sarwar also said Labour is not talking to any Tory MSPs about defecting.

It comes after right-wing Tory MP Natalie Elphicke defected to Labour at Prime Minister's Questions last week.

The Dover MP's move was criticised by many inside the party because of her anti-immigration views and comments about her husbands sexual assault conviction.

When asked afterwards if he had spoken to any Tory MSPs about possible defections and if he would accept any Conservative members into the Labour group, Sarwar said: "I can clamp down [on that].

"There are no discussions with Tory MSPs, although I can imagine a lot of Tory MSPs will view this current Conservative Party as being completely alien to the Ruth Davidson Scottish Conservatives that was in place a while ago.

"So if any of them are thinking of jumping ship, they should come out and just say first of all that the dysfunctional Tory Government should go and people should vote Labour across the country."

He added: "I don't know Natalie Elphicke, I've never met Natalie Elphicke. Lots of her comments I find completely unacceptable.

"What I do agree with her on is that Rishi Sunak's time is up, that we have a chaotic and divided Conservative Party in office and that we need a Labour Government."

In his speech, he pledged to reform Holyrood.

He said: "We will clean up the Scottish Parliament, with MSPs granted the same privileges and protections as MPs and stronger powers for the parliament to hold ministers to account.

"That includes the election of committee conveners, the right to recall MSPs, a ban on second jobs, and stronger FOI laws to ensure greater transparency and to rebuild trust in politics.

"And we will push power out of Holyrood and into the regions of Scotland."

The SNP’s Home Affairs spokesperson Alison Thewliss said:

“It ought to be a wake up call for Labour when even Suella Braverman, the darling of the far-right Tories, is calling for an end to the cruel and pernicious two child limit.

"Sir Keir Starmer's Labour Party cannot be taken seriously on child poverty while they want to maintain damaging Tory welfare cuts.

“The two child cap and associated rape clause is an appalling policy that punishes families who are already struggling to get by as a result of the Tories’ cost of living crisis.

“In stark contrast to the policies of Tory Westminster, backed by the Labour party, SNP Government policies, including the Scottish Child Payment, are set to keep an estimated 100,000 children out of poverty this year.

“The SNP will continue to campaign for policies that will support families rather than punish them. For representation of Scotland’s values and a strong voice in support of ordinary people vote SNP at the next election."

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