Starmer: Labour can be the change that Scotland needs

Sir Keir Starmer is set to urge Scottish voters to “take another look at Labour” and portray his party as the “change that Scotland needs”.

He will use his keynote speech at Scottish Labour’s conference in Edinburgh on Sunday to make a direct plea to Tory and SNP voters “who had given up on Labour and Britain”, asking them to put their trust in his party.

In the wake of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s shock resignation this week, the Labour leader will promise a “bold, reforming government” in what he will call a “new era for Scotland and Britain”.

Sir Keir is expected to say: “Amidst all the chaos of Tory and SNP rule, there is a growing impatience for change, and for national renewal.

“Working people are tired of an economy that only works for those at the top. They want public services that can provide security and a springboard for opportunity. They despair of a broken politics, which can’t provide their community with the tools to control its destiny.

“This is the change Scotland needs, that Britain needs, and Labour will rise to the moment and provide it.”

Paying tribute to Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar for giving the party “its confidence back in Scotland”, Sir Keir will highlight the changes made under his and Mr Sarwar’s leadership, including Labour’s “non-negotiable” support for Nato, rooting out of antisemitism and an understanding of sound money.

“It’s not about change at the top of other parties, it’s about the changes we’ve made – from top to bottom – to our own, and the change we can now offer the Scottish people,” he will say.

Anas Sarwar
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar told the conference his party is ‘ready for government’ (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ms Sturgeon’s departure could give Labour the opportunity to reverse its near decade-long slump in Scotland and pave the way for Sir Keir’s election as the UK’s next prime minister, senior party figures believe.

In his speech, Sir Keir will acknowledge that many Scots who “want change and hope” see independence as the only “way out of Tory Britain”.

But he will urge them to trust a Labour government to restore hope and put an end to the SNP and Tories’ “shared investment in division”.

“The case for the union rests on the solidarity of working people, pushing Britain forward, in search of that ordinary hope,” he will tell activists.

“That’s what we’re fighting for in our country. We need to meet the forces of division with renewed hope.”

But the SNP’s Depute Westminster leader Mhairi Black accused Labour of being “indistinguishable from the Tories on a whole range of issues” and having “no answers” for Scotland on key challenges.

Ahead of Sir Keir’s speech, she said: “Like the Tories, they are intent on blocking the cast-iron democratic mandate for an independence referendum.

“And just like the Conservatives they are fully signed up to the unfolding catastrophe of Brexit and the huge damage it is inflicting on Scotland.”

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: “Pro-union voters won’t be duped again by Keir Starmer’s claim that Labour will not do deals with the SNP.”