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by Andrew Learmonth
27 September 2021
Sarwar warns Starmer against a 'progressive alliance' with the SNP

Sarwar warns Starmer against a 'progressive alliance' with the SNP

Anas Sarwar has used his first speech to the Labour conference since taking over as the party’s leader north of the border to warn colleagues in Westminster against forming a “progressive alliance” with the SNP.

Over the weekend, a report from the Scottish Fabians said it would be “impossible” for the party to return to government without at least 25  seats in Scotland. 

Currently, the party holds just one constituency, Ian Murray's Edinburgh South.

In his speech, Sarwar said: “The SNP are not progressive and they are not our allies. 

“Trade unionists in their workplaces. Activists in their communities. Every person in this hall today. We already have a progressive alliance - it is called the Labour Party.

“And let’s judge the SNP on their record. Attainment gap - widening. Child poverty - growing. Waiting times - getting longer. And the heartbreaking scandal of the highest drugs death rate in Europe.

“A progressive party would roll up its sleeves. Instead, the SNP blame Westminster and carry on campaigning for the only thing that matters to them - independence. 

“While the SNP revel in an ‘us v them’ politics in Scotland, across the UK we also have an ‘us v them’ Tory Government. A government with one rule for them, another for everyone else.

“Taking £20 away from the poorest families in the UK, while handing millions pound deals to their friends.

“And we cannot defeat the ‘us vs them’ politics with our own version of ‘us vs them’. Instead, we’ve got to build a campaign that is about all of us.

Sarwar also used his speech to call on the Scottish Government to increase winter fuel payments for the country’s poorest pensioners.

He said: “In Scotland, 150,000 pensioners live in poverty. The Scottish Parliament has the power to increase winter fuel payments for those pensioners.

“Rather than hand that power back to a Tory government, we should use it to increase payments by £70 to the lowest income pensioners to help them in the winter months. 

“Where the SNP obsess over mandates and white papers, the powers of the Scottish Parliament must be used to end the choice between heating and eating this winter.

“That is why Labour created the Scottish Parliament, that is why power matters and that is what I mean by ‘building the alternative’.”

The new leader also announced an Energy Transition Commission, to be led by former minister Brian Wilson, to  “help create a greener, fairer and more prosperous future.”

He told delegates: “In November, the eyes of the world will be on my home city of Glasgow for COP 26. “We want the world to see a country united in the fight against climate change.

“But as Labour, we must be clear - There is no just transition if it decimates entire communities and sacrifices tens of thousands of jobs.

“We can’t allow a repeat of the end of mining, where communities were hollowed out, workers were stripped of their dignity and our industrial base was destroyed. “

However, his speech to conference was overshadowed by the resignation of a key member of Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet. 

Just as Sarwar started addressing the party faithful, Andy McDonald, the shadow secretary of state for employment, quit claiming Starmer had opposed a hike in the minimum wage to £15 per hour.

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - Time is right to reform Scotland's exams, says education minister

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