Shropshire Star

Change in Scotland a ‘two-stage process’, says Sarwar

The Scottish Labour leader has published his party’s manifesto.

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Anas Sarwar making a speech in front of Labour 'change' signage

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has described change in Scotland as a “two-stage process” as he published his party’s manifesto.

Mr Sarwar took the unusual step of using the launch of his party’s plans ahead of the July 4 General Election to also look to 2026, when Scots will next go to the polls in a Holyrood election.

The 135-page document largely echoes the proposals laid out in the UK-wide Labour manifesto published last week, but in it Mr Sarwar also commits to some measures to be implemented if his party wins the keys to Bute House.

He said at the launch in Edinburgh on Tuesday: “The manifesto we have published today of course reflects much of what the UK Labour manifesto outlined last week, demonstrating what a UK Labour government will deliver in office.

“But we know change for Scotland is a two-stage process, it begins in just 17 days when we can finally get rid of this lying, corrupt, incompetent Tory Government – but that is just the start.

Anas Sarwar holding a copy of Scottish Labour's manifesto
Mr Sarwar looked ahead to 2026 during his party’s manifesto launch (Jane Barlow/PA)

“In 2026, we need a change of direction at Holyrood as much as we need one at Westminster today.

“The SNP has failed the people of Scotland – breaking our NHS, ruining our once world-leading education system, and tarnishing our politics by wasting and misusing your money.”

Scottish Labour, he said, will improve policing, reform the planning system, ban second jobs for MSPs and bring in a recall mechanism at Holyrood, and reduce the poverty-related attainment gap in education, if it forms the government in 2026.

He also vowed to ensure the NHS is secure for “generations to come”.

Mr Sarwar said: “This election is a key moment in our nation’s history – the choice is more of the same or change with Labour.

“I know that Scotland has extraordinary potential just waiting to be unlocked – Labour will unlock that true potential.

“We have worked tirelessly so that our party is ready to serve you again.

“With Keir Starmer in Number 10, we will have a government on the side of the people of Scotland, because Labour is the only party trying to pull our country together.”

A Labour government will “turn the page on the chaos of the past few years”, the Glasgow MSP added.

Addressing activists and journalists at the launch, he added: “People are fed up with politicians who focus only on their own priorities and put their party before country.

“Our country is crying out for change.

“So we need to change our politics, and turn the page on the chaos of the past few years.”

Following his speech, Mr Sarwar was repeatedly questioned about the two-child benefit cap – which limits the number of children families can claim benefits for.

Labour has said it will not be able to scrap the measure due to a lack of funding, but it has come under pressure from opposition parties and campaigners.

Asked by a journalist if he is against the cap, Mr Sarwar said: “The short answer is yes.

Line graph showing Labour's lead ahead of the General Election
(PA Graphics)

“We were right to oppose the two-child limit, we were right to vote against the two-child limit.”

But he added: “The honest reality is after 14 years of Tory economic carnage, we will not be able to do everything we want to do as fast as we want to do.”

But SNP candidate for Edinburgh East and Musselburgh Tommy Sheppard said Labour “offer no real change at all”.

He added: “It is a manifesto that doubles down on the silence of the Labour Party on the £18 billion of cuts we know Sir Keir Starmer is planning. With less than three weeks to go in this election, it’s about time they were honest with the public about the cuts to public services they are signed up to.

“This copy-paste job reminds us of how little influence the branch office has, because even when it differs from the version produced by their London bosses, we know Scottish Labour MPs will always take their marching orders from whips in Westminster.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater said Labour’s plans would mean “super-charged austerity”.

She added: “Scottish Labour needs to be clear with the people of Scotland.

“If they want to spend public money on tax cuts for higher earners, what will they cut? Teachers? Nurses? Free school meals?”

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy compared the Labour manifesto to that of the SNP for being “against any new oil and gas licences”, which Tories claim will lead to thousands of potential job losses in north-east Scotland.

He added: “The Scottish Conservatives are the only party standing up for oil and gas workers, while the SNP and Labour are committed to turning off the taps, a reckless step which would decimate north-east communities and endanger our energy security.

“In key seats up and down Scotland at this General Election, only the Scottish Conservatives can beat the SNP as Labour are simply too far behind to challenge them.”

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