The UK and Scottish Governments need “a principle of co-operation, not conflict”, the leader of the Scottish Labour party has said.
Anas Sarwar spoke out in the aftermath of a row between politicians either side of the border in response to comments made by Liz Truss about the First Minister.
The Tory leadership hopeful branded Nicola Sturgeon an “attention seeker” who is “best ignored” at a hustings event in Exeter on Monday, prompting claims that Scottish voters are being undermined.
Mr Sarwar said on Wednesday that while he does not think Ms Sturgeon should be ignored, he does want to see her held to account – and suggested that both figures are “throwing red meat to their own bases”.
He said: “I think there’s a lot of attention-seeking happening in Scottish and UK politics, and so I’m not going to criticise anyone for seeking attention, because I seek my own attention, as you can imagine.
“But what I think is the important point here is, I don’t want Nicola Sturgeon to be ignored.
“I want her to be held to account, and the reality is that you have both, in terms of Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, and also in terms of Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and the Conservative Party, both throwing red meat to their own base around all of these issues, purely in a way of ramping up rhetoric among their own supporters.”
He told the PA news agency that both Ms Truss and Mr Sunak, who are competing to take over as Tory leader and prime minister from Boris Johnson, are “a gift to the Labour Party”.
“They’re both continuity Boris Johnson. They’re both candidates who are just Boris Johnson with more combed hair and and probably less of the jokes,” he said.
But he warned that focus should be put towards ongoing issues affecting the public, including the cost-of-living crisis and problems within the NHS.
“We currently have two Governments who play on conflict, who want to run government based on conflict rather than co-operation when it’s in the national interest,” he told PA.
“The real issue that gets ignored is what’s happening to people’s lives, and right now we’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the biggest fall in living standards since the war.
“I want our Governments focused on that. Record numbers of people are on the NHS waiting lists, 700,000 people in Scotland are on NHS waiting lists. I don’t want that ignored.”
He added: “I think when it’s in the national interest, those Governments should work together.
“But I think we need a principle of co-operation, not conflict, and I don’t think these two political parties, who are now rooted in division, whose ideology is driven by division, are the ones who can lead us through the biggest crisis of our times.”
SNP MSP Paul McLennan said: “Anas Sarwar had the opportunity to call out the likely next Tory prime minister for this clear contempt for Scotland and the democratically elected First Minister – but he didn’t take it.
“It’s no wonder Scottish Labour has absolutely zero credibility in Scotland. They choose to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Tories in their Trump-like denial of a democracy in Scotland, despite the cast-iron mandate given in a democratic election.
“The only way to protect Scottish democracy from the contempt of Westminster parties and Westminster control is for Scotland to become a normal independent country.”
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