19 Jun 2024

SNP are fighting election by ‘scaremongering’, says Scottish Labour Party leader

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: Some polls are saying that Labour could have more Scottish MPs than the SNP after July the 4th. We spoke to Anas Sarwar, the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

Anas Sarwar: First of all, not a single vote has been cast in this election so far. We know from history that only when Labour appeals to every part of our country, including here in Scotland, does it win a significant mandate to change our country, right across the whole of the UK. Keir Starmer has been really clear that he wants to be the prime minister for every part.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: That’s not what happened in ‘97.

Anas Sarwar: Actually in 1997 we had significant wins in Scotland as part of Labour winning in every part of the country.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: But you didn’t need them?

Anas Sarwar: You ask directly. I think that’s a really insulting way of actually thinking about the Scottish voters, as if they just have a role to play in terms of protest. That’s maybe what the SNP believes, it’s not what the Labour Party believes. We’re campaigning in this election because we recognise that every vote for Scottish Labour is a vote – one to make sure we get rid of the Tories but, secondly, to put Scotland at the heart of a Labour government and deliver the change our country needs. We’re very openly saying to people who may have voted SNP in the past, who may have supported independence in the past, and who may even support independence at some point in the future – we may disagree on the final destination for Scotland, but we can all agree we need change right now, and that’s why, let’s go on this part of the journey together, get rid of this Tory government and start the process of a journey of change for Scotland.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: But to be clear, to the Labour supporters who are pro-independence – and there are a lot of them – if they vote Labour, they’re never going to get independence, are they?

Anas Sarwar: We don’t support independence. We don’t support a referendum.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: Ok, that’s clear.

Anas Sarwar: But I think there’s a broader issue about why so many people are moving away from the SNP. One of the reasons why they’re moving away from the SNP isn’t because it’s some kind of tactical positioning that some people might want to frame it as – it’s because, as you rightly pointed out to John Swinney, there are 17 years of failure. If you look at what’s happening in our NHS, what’s happening in our education system, what’s happening in our criminal justice system, the SNP’s record is now in front of the Scottish people. The SNP aren’t fighting this election on their record, they’re fighting on scaremongering against the Labour Party and people can frankly see through it.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: And yet your opposition to maintaining the two child benefit cap has been overruled by the party in London – they are keeping the policy – and you’ve got to row in behind it.

Anas Sarwar: No, what we’ve said is that we’re only going to make promises we know we can keep, and we’re only going to make spending commitments that our country can afford right now. We’ve all been very clear that these are the first steps of change.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: But you could fund them, you could just raise a tax somewhere else?

Anas Sarwar: These are the first steps we would take. Actually I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to increase taxes on working people in the middle of a cost of living crisis. Instead, we want to get growth into our economy, and we hope to go even further than what we’re outlining in this manifesto. But that involves getting rid of a chaotic government and recognising that we can’t fix every problem straight away. I think it downplays the damage done by the Tories over the last 14 years if we pretend that, with a flip of a switch, everything can be fixed. Instead, we’ve got to focus on delivering economic growth.

Through the fruits of that growth, I want to see us go even further and be more ambitious than what’s even in our manifesto. That’s something I’ve heard from Keir directly, I’ve heard from Rachel directly and I’ve heard from Wes Streeting directly. These are the first steps of change. But we only get that if we take the opportunity to make sure we get rid of the Tories, to put Scotland at the heart of a Labour government and start that journey for change.