Glasgow being mismanaged by SNP, Sarwar tells Scottish Labour conference

By Jeevan Farthing

Party leader tells a packed conference hall that Scottish Labour is “the only party of change”, and reaffirms his call for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza.

Anas Sarwar has today restated several existing policies, and attacked current and former government ministers in Westminster and Holyrood, in a speech portraying change as urgently necessary, and Scottish Labour as the only party able to deliver it. His speech was a substantial affair, nearly one hour long, promising Scotland to be at the heart of a UK Labour government should they win the next general election.

Perhaps most striking was his intervention on the Middle East, made within the first few minutes of his speech. Sarwar said his home city of Glasgow has always stood against injustice, and that the “fighting [in Gaza] must stop right now”. He remarked on his visit to the Al-Shabir hospital in Gaza, and received substantial applause for criticising the “collective punishment of 2.2 million innocent citizens of Gaza” He claimed neither Hamas nor Benjamin Netanyahu are interested in peace. The UK Labour Party has experienced months of infighting on the issue.

Sarwar received one lengthy standing ovation within his speech – when he named a future with Conservative politicians, such as Priti Patel, Lee Anderson and Suella Braverman, as an “unbearable nightmare”. He was less explicit in attacking SNP Ministers; Michael Matheson’s recent resignation was alluded to, although the former Health Secretary was not named personally.

Sarwar’s rhetoric leaned firmly away from the left of Labour politics. He attacked the Scottish Greens as “anti-growth”, and the SNP as both “anti-business” and “anti-aspiration”. He said oil and gas will play a role in the UK’s energy mix for decades to come. A significant portion of his speech attempted to outline an economic framework both globalist and patriotic – Scotland will be “open for business”, but he also wants “Scottish wind turbines built in Scotland, not Indonesia”, and “British steel, not Chinese steel”. He criticised the Scottish Parliament for being too focused on social policy, rather than economic policy.

Existing Labour policies were restated: the promise of a mental health worker in every GP surgery, a New Deal for Working People, and the replacement of the House of Lords with a democratically elected chamber of representatives (recently delayed by the UK party). He touched upon few Scotland-specific policies, but did claim the closure of the non-dom tax loophole would deliver the equivalent of 130,000 more NHS appointments in Scotland.

The song ‘Unstoppable’, by Sia, played as Sarwar started and finished his address. Overall, his speech attempted to cement Labour’s entry to government as near-inevitable, drawing upon the UK party’s two by-election gains overnight. His vision is of a party simultaneously capable of change and attractive to the centre ground. He spoke passionately to party members sitting in front of him, although many of his remarks felt like gestures to business leaders. The question remains whether this speech was enough to satisfy both these audiences, or neither.


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