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5 things we learned as Keir Starmer brands SNP party of ‘north sea nationalism’

Sir Keir Starmer.

Keir Starmer claimed Scotland must be “respected within the union” as he took aim at the SNP and Tories in a key-note speech at Labour’s conference in Glasgow.

The Labour chief emphasised the need for new jobs in regions such as Fife and the north-east – and hailed Anas Sarwar’s leadership of the party north of the border.

He branded Boris Johnson’s Conservatives the biggest threat to the union as he made an impassioned pitch to become prime minister after the next election.

Here are the key moments from his first speech at the party’s Scottish conference since he took the top job.

1. SNP is party of ‘north sea nationalism’

Keir Starmer claimed the SNP are “selling Scotland’s offshore wind to every foreign energy interest imaginable” as he talked up Labour’s credentials north of the border.

He branded them the party of “north sea nationalism” and said a Labour government would be best placed to run Scotland both at Westminster and in Holyrood.

The Labour chief blasted the SNP for trying to “keep Scotland stuck on pause”.

He claimed the nationalist and Tories are “joined at the hip in wanting to turn every election into the same referendum”.

And he added: “They don’t have the credible policies we need to create and sustain decent jobs.”

2. Labour must ‘undo Tory damage to union’

Speaking to the Glasgow audience, Keir Starmer said Scotland must be respected within the UK as he hit out at Boris Johnson.

The Westminster opposition chief claimed the Tories “pose as patriotic defenders of the union” but risk destroying it.

He warned that Boris Johnson’s party could “destroy everything they profess to hold dear” if they are not removed from government at the next opportunity.

In a deliberate pitch to Scottish voters, he said: “Scottish votes have never carried more weight in a General Election.

“Those who pretend that Scotland can’t choose the government it gets are wrong.”

His comments were echoed by party MP Ian Murray, who said earlier: “Boris Johnson is a bigger threat to the constitution than Nicola Sturgeon because Scotland detests him.

“It is the only place that really does, so sticking a Union Jack doesn’t work, and sending cheques doesn’t work.”

But hitting back, a Tory spokeswoman said: “Labour have lost votes in every Holyrood election, falling to their worst ever result last year.

“No matter how much they try to gain support by appealing to nationalist voters, the Labour party is now mere a shadow of what it used to be.”

3. UK and Scottish Labour appear united

Keir Starmer was full of praise for Anas Sarwar’s leadership of the party at Holyrood and hailed him for opening up on his experiences of racism.

After years of tumult and division both north and south of the border, Labour appeared united as they seek to win back voters in their former heartlands.

In an apparent swipe at predecessor Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Starmer said Labour must abandon “political purity” if they hope to win.

ernie ross
Labour’s Anas Sarwar.

He said the Labour Party had put their own internal struggles above the needs and wishes of “working people” for too long.

Seeking to emulate former Labour heavyweights, he praised ex-prime minister’s Gordon Brown’s efforts to preserve the union.

He said: “In Gordon’s day, the lights in Downing Street burned late into the night. Not for parties.

“But because here was a Scottish MP who never rested from the task at hand, restless always to improve the lives, not just of Scots, but of families struggling to pay their bills in every part of Britain.”

4. Job boost needed as Scotland tackles climate change

The Labour leader made a direct pitch to voters in Scotland’s north-east and in Fife as he emphasised the need to create new jobs while tackling the climate emergency.

During his speech today Mr Starmer claimed that workers in Fife are being “left idle” while the “offshore industry of the future” is built.

Nicola Sturgeon and Anas Sarwar have clashed in Holyrood in recent months over SNP policies on oil, gas and renewables.

The first minister was met with criticism from the Scottish Labour leader over their £700 million ScotWind deal.

Mr Starmer said: “We have a new opportunity now to have a Labour government that will be in partnership with business, to create work. Because Labour is the party of work, we always have been.

“There is no challenge ahead of us, whether its automation or climate change, that we cannot rise to.”

5. Labour are ‘party of security and Nato’

Mr Starmer slammed Vladimir Putin for his invasion of Ukraine and said Labour stands with Ukraine.

The Westminster leader was keen to talk up his party’s defence credentials and said they were the “party of security” and backed NATO.

He said Russian president Mr Putin is “afraid of democracy” and fears “order and liberty”.

Mr Starmer told the crowd: “We must tackle the oligarchs here and go after their money, and while we’re at it, clean up our own politics, once and for all.”