Swinney urges voters to turn out in ‘incredibly close’ election contest

Scotland’s First Minister has urged “every single SNP voter” to turn out on Thursday in what he said will be an “incredibly close” contest throughout the country.

Addressing supporters at a pre-election rally in Leith on Wednesday evening, John Swinney said the Conservatives were going to be “heavily defeated” by the Labour Party in England, but that there were “narrow margins” between Labour and the SNP north of the border.

He said “constituencies will be close contests the length and breadth of the country”, and told supporters it was necessary to motivate “every single SNP supporter” to come out Thursday, saying each vote could “genuinely could change outcomes”.

He explained this was a contest that “really matters” because Scots had a choice between a Labour Party that would continue the Conservatives’ policies on Brexit, nuclear weapons and austerity, and an SNP that offered a vision of a “hopeful Scotland”.

John Swinney hugging an SNP supporter
John Swinney urged SNP supporters to vote as he described the General Election as ‘incredibly close’ (Michael Boyd/PA)

His party, he said, would end austerity, eradicate child poverty, “reach out” to European neighbours and “do the right thing on the international questions of the day”.

Mr Swinney said: “The removal of a discredited and damaging Conservative government is going to happen and it’s going to happen because of voters in England. But in Scotland there is a real contest that is going on between the SNP and the Labour Party.

“That’s a contest which is incredibly close. But it’s also a contest that really matters.

“Because in countless constituencies the length and breadth of this country there will be narrow margins that will separate the SNP and the Labour Party, and we need to make sure we maximise the votes for the Scottish National Party.”

Labour, he said, was “determined to continue so much of what the Conservatives have done to damage the fabric of our society.

“Whether it’s through public spending cuts, or the damage that’s been done to our economy and our public finances, like Brexit, or the damage that’s done to families by keeping them in poverty because of the two child limit.”

In contrast, he said, the SNP was determined to end austerity, remove the two child benefit cap, and reverse the “damage” of Brexit.

To cheers he said: “To the people of Scotland weighing up voting tomorrow I say this.

“If you want to live in a hopeful Scotland, a Scotland where we eradicate child poverty, where we reach out to our European neighbours, a Scotland where we do the right thing on the international questions of the day like Gaza, then vote for the Scottish National Party because our values are your values in this election campaign.

“We have a chance tomorrow to shape the future of our country, to do what we believe is the right of the people of Scotland, to design a future that’s made in Scotland, for Scotland.

“That’s what we’re about as a party, making sure that Scotland is able to make a future in Scotland, for Scotland, through independence.”

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “This election offers voters the best chance yet to end the SNP’s divisive independence obsession for good.

“In key seats across Scotland, it’s a straight fight between the Scottish Conservatives and the SNP.

“If pro-UK voters unite behind us, we will win those seats and turn a bad night for the SNP into a disastrous one. But a vote for any party other than the Scottish Conservatives – including Reform – risks the SNP candidate sneaking in by the back door.

“The SNP deserve to pay for ignoring Scotland’s real priorities – like fixing our ailing public services and creating good jobs – to fixate instead on breaking up the UK. By voting Scottish Conservative, you can help keep them out.”

Commenting, shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray said: “This election is an opportunity to boot the Tories out that we cannot afford to miss – but let’s not forget that Scots have been let down by two bad governments.

“John Swinney was the architect of austerity in Scotland – but instead of apologising for decimating local services, he is standing by his dire record.

“This is a First Minister with no credibility on public finances and no new ideas for Scotland. After 17 years of SNP failure and 14 years of Tory chaos, Scotland has a chance to deliver a government that is on the side of the working people of Scotland with Scottish MPs at its heart.

“While John Swinney ties himself in knots, Labour has been clear – we will end Tory austerity, deliver economic stability, treat public finances with respect and give public services a badly needed funding boost.

“Only Labour can end the Tory chaos, maximise Scotland’s influence, bring down bills, make work pay and deliver the change that Scotland needs.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “In huge swathes of Scotland the choice is between the nationalists and a Liberal Democrat local champion who will fight for a fair deal for you and your community.

“Throughout this campaign, I have met former SNP voters disillusioned with the scandals and their mishandling of public services. I have met Labour and Conservative voters who are backing the Liberal Democrats this time because they recognise that a handful of votes in key seats could make the difference.”