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Anas Sarwar hints at income tax change and pledges NHS cash in general election push

Anas Sarwar at Scottish Labour conference | Andrew Perry

Anas Sarwar hints at income tax change and pledges NHS cash in general election push

Labour will funnel £134m more into Scotland’s health service every year if it wins the “most important general election in a generation”, Anas Sarwar has said.

In his keynote speech to the Scottish Labour conference in Glasgow, Sarwar said a Labour government at Westminster would provide the cash boost for NHS Scotland through Barnett funding by closing the tax  loophole for non-doms.

He said “every penny” of those funds would be invested to “increase capacity and drive down waiting lists” in the health service.

Sarwar said “people’s frustration and anger has grown” and they “feel like nothing works”.

He said the upcoming general election is “our chance to elect a Labour government and to put Scotland at the heart of that government”.

And, hinting at potential income tax changes under Labour in Scotland, he said his party is “unashamedly pro-growth, pro-business, pro-worker”.

Sarwar, who walked out as Unstoppable by Australian singer Sia played, said: “This Scottish Government has resorted to using income tax as a substitute for economic growth. This is choking off opportunity and hurting families and companies in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis and a cost-of-doing business crisis.

“It is failing businesses in Scotland. Spurred on by the anti-growth Greens, the SNP has become an anti-business, anti-aspiration party. That’s why we need a new business case for Scotland.”

Speaking at the Scottish Event Campus on the first of the three-day conference, he said the SNP and Tory governments in Edinburgh and London are “the best of frenemies” who “use each other as an excuse and a cover for their own failings”.

Hitting out at the Scottish Government over the scandal that saw Michael Matheson quit as health secretary over his £11,000 iPad data bill, and at the UK Government over the PPE row involving Scots businesswoman Michelle Mone, he said his party will “end the culture of financial mismanagement” and “secrecy” at Holyrood, and “end Tory corruption”.

Sarwar said: “Weak and incompetent leadership; financial mismanagement; no idea how to govern; pitting voter against voter; mired in scandal; breaking public services – what a track record of failure in government.

“It’s not just the Tories we are talking about, it’s also the perfect description of the SNP.”

Repeating his appeal to former Yes voters, he said: “I don’t care how you voted in the past. I don’t care how you voted in either referendum. I don’t support independence and I don’t support a referendum. But I understand why people want to run a million miles away from this rotten Tory government.

Anas Sarwar and wife Furheen | Andrew Perry

“So while we may disagree on the final destination for Scotland, I believe we can all agree we need change right now. So let’s go on this part of the journey together and deliver that change and get rid of this rotten Tory government.”

And he said a Labour government would be a chance to “reset devolution and take it back to its founding principles”, arguing that other parties “have failed to make devolution work for the people of Scotland”.

The speech came the day after Labour secured two by-election victories in England in significant swings from the Tories.

Michael Shanks, who won the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election for Labour last year, said his result was “the moment to demonstrate that change is happening”.

He said: “We have come back from the wilderness in Scottish politics and we have done it far faster than anyone could have expected.”

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