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by Kirsteen Paterson
08 January 2024
Anas Sarwar urges independence voters to back Labour as Humza Yousaf outlines economic 'optimism'

Anas Sarwar and Humza Yousaf | Alamy

Anas Sarwar urges independence voters to back Labour as Humza Yousaf outlines economic 'optimism'

Humza Yousaf will today outline an independent Scotland's economic "case for optimism" as Anas Sarwar urges Yes supporters to "unite" with Labour to "get rid of" the Tory government.

The leaders will each try to appeal to voters on opposing sides of the constitutional divide in speeches which kick off general election campaigns.

In a major economic speech at the University of Glasgow, First Minister Yousaf, the leader of the SNP, is expected to say that the UK's post-Brexit economy is failing Scotland and outline the "case of optimism" under independence.

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour rival Sarwar will be in nearby Rutherglen to urge both unionists and nationalists to vote Labour and make 2024 the "year of change".

He is expected to say: "Let me say to those that may have supported independence in the past, and may even consider it in the future.  

"I don't support independence and I don’t support a referendum, but I accept that we need change right now. 

"We may ultimately disagree on the final destination for Scotland, but on this part of the journey, let's unite to change our country and get rid of this Tory government. 

"Give us the opportunity to show you that we can make the UK work for every corner of our country, including here in Scotland. 

"The chance to show you that change is possible, and that this isn't as good as it gets. 

"Because I believe with a Labour government, we can do better than the managed decline of the Tories and the SNP."

Meanwhile, Yousaf will say the post-Brexit UK economy is failing Scotland and the cost-of-living crisis means independence and EU re-entry are "urgent". 

Stating that No voters must not be "dismissed", Yousaf is expected to talk up the country's strengths in renewables, engineering, food and drink, life sciences, the creative industries and business services.

And he is expected to say: "There will be those who will never support independence. That doesn’t mean those people should be dismissed - far from it.

"There is much to learn from an opposing perspective. And we can all still engage, even if to disagree, respectfully.

"There will be others who are sympathetic to independence but who are not yet persuaded or who don’t think this is the right time.

"It is my argument that independence is urgent. It is urgent precisely because the cost of living is top of people’s concerns. Because it is through independence, and in particular the powerful combination of independence and EU membership, that we can raise living standards."

The speeches come days after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak dismissed speculation of a May election, saying that he expects the contest to take place in the second half of the year.

Yousaf is expected to follow today's speech with further addresses on economic issues in the coming year. It is understood that these will focus on building economic consensus to benefit business, encouraging investment, workers' rights and the labour market, and ownership and governance.

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