We’ve put Labour back on track in Scotland – voters believe we can win again
4 min read
The question of how we win back the “red wall” understandably looms large at every Labour conference – but what we can’t forget is that the first red wall to fall was in Scotland.
Rebuilding both of these red walls must be Labour’s mission if we are going to form the next government.
As leader of the Scottish Labour Party, I have been working to earn back the trust of voters in Scotland. I am far from complacent, but I believe we are on the right track. This year’s council elections marked the first good day in a long time for us. We pushed the Tories out of second place and showed voters we are back on the pitch.
No ifs, no buts, no deals with the SNP
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t aspire to second place. I want Labour to be a party of government again both in Scotland and across the United Kingdom so that we can deliver the change our country needs. To do that, we need to recognise that it’s not enough that our opponents deserve to lose. We need to deserve to win.
We have now fundamentally changed the narrative in Scotland and shown voters there is another option. Scotland is no longer stuck choosing between the SNP and the Tories, both whipping up bitterness and division to distract from their own failures. We can choose a better future with a forward-looking and optimistic Labour Party.
The other crucial mindset change we’ve seen is the result of Labour, under Keir Starmer’s leadership, rebuilding across the UK and looking like a credible government in waiting. Voters finally believe we can win again. It’s no longer a question of who can best oppose this Tory government, but who can replace them – and only Labour can.
It is essential that we do replace them. Both Scotland’s governments have been missing in action during the worst cost of living crisis in decades, but Labour have been setting the agenda. From the windfall tax to the energy price freeze and rent freeze, we have been leading the way in both Westminster and Holyrood.
If this is what we can achieve in opposition, just imagine what we could do in government. Because whether it’s in Westminster or Holyrood, second place is never good enough – to really change lives, we have to come first.
Politics has been dragged into the gutter over the last year by Boris Johnson and his government. And make no mistake – our new Prime Minister Liz Truss is complicit in the same failures as her predecessor.
That’s why we are campaigning right now to build a coalition of the people, across the country, to boot the Tories out of Downing Street and give the UK the fresh start it needs. That is a coalition of the people, not of political parties. No ifs, no buts, no deals with the SNP. We cannot run the country with people who want to break up the country.
The SNP might talk a progressive good game in Westminster, but their record in government tells a different story. They have squandered 15 years and become convinced the rules don’t apply to them. Never in the history of devolution has there been a single party with so much power and done so little with it.
Scotland and the whole UK have been failed by the politics of division. For too long, politicians have tried to divide people up into camps – Leave versus Remain, Yes versus No, us versus them – and only govern for the side that agree with them.
Only Labour wants to bring our country together to build a better future for every nation and region in the UK. We need to win the next general election so we can govern for the whole country – and winning in Scotland is central to that.
Anas Sarwar, MSP for Glasgow and leader of Scottish Labour.
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