Interest Rates

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 11 May 2023.

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Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

2. It has just been announced that interest rates will go up again, which will mean higher mortgages. That is all because of Tory economic chaos. That comes in the same week that the Scottish National Party launched its campaign for another Tory Government. [

Interruption

.] Therefore, I ask the First Minister to put aside his party’s self-interest and be honest—[

Interruption

.]

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

SNP members do not like the truth, Presiding Officer.

I ask the First Minister to put aside his party’s self-interest and be honest. What is better for Scotland: a Labour Government or a Tory Government?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

What is best for Scotland is independence, of course, because then we will have the powers in our own hands. [

Interruption

.]

The First Minister:

It is exceptionally brave of Anas Sarwar to go on that topic, this week of all weeks, because what we have with the Labour Party

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Keir Starmer is someone who has refused to reverse every single measure of Tory austerity. What we have with Keir Starmer is an individual who has reneged on his promise to abolish tuition fees for students in England and who, just yesterday, refused to repeal cruel Tory legislation such as the Illegal Migration Bill.

Scotland does not need cruel, harmful policies imposed on it, whether that is done by a politician who wears a blue tie or a politician who wears a red tie. What Scotland needs is the full powers of an independent nation, so that we can chart our own course and get out of this unequal and broken union.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

There you have it, Presiding Officer. He cannot answer the question. [

Interruption

.]

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you. I am sorry, Mr Sarwar.

We have visitors, who have gathered to hear the questions and answers, and we have people tuned in across the nation, who are also keen to do so. Although I appreciate members’ passion and interest, I would be grateful if we could try to behave ourselves with decorum.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

I think that you should be softer with SNP members, Presiding Officer—it is the first time that they have shown life in weeks. We should appreciate the SNP back benchers.

Is it not amazing that they have shown life when it comes to attacking the Labour Party? We have a governing party that is under investigation by the police; sexual misconduct allegations; whistleblowers being silenced; and division on the back benches. There is only one party that looks like the Tories, and it is not us—it is the SNP.

The First Minister is so out of touch that he insults the intelligence of people across Scotland. Labour would deliver a new deal for working people and scrap the Tory anti-trade union laws. Labour would deliver a publicly owned energy company, which the SNP promised but has failed to deliver. Labour would make Scotland a research and development powerhouse, rather than imposing SNP cuts on universities. Labour would bring down people’s bills with a proper windfall tax, which the SNP and the Tories do not support. That is the change that Scotland needs.

I know that the First Minister is still trying to find his feet and that the job can be quite confusing for him. Is it not the case that he prefers a Tory Government, because it is cover for his own incompetence?

The First Minister:

I will say what the SNP is interested in. We are not interested in getting rid of the Tories just for a little while; we want to get rid of Tory Governments for ever, and the way that we do that is, of course, by voting for independence. We do not want to replace Tory with Tory-lite or with a pale imitation of the Tories. We know that Keir Starmer is lurching to the right. The Labour Party is little more than a Conservative tribute act.

Just last week, Labour committed to keeping the Tories’ anti-protest legislation in place. On tuition fees, Keir Starmer has done a Nick Clegg and ditched his pledge to make university education free.

We are absolutely committed to progressive taxation—the Scottish Government is leading the way on progressive taxation. What does Keir Starmer say about income tax for the top 5 per cent of earners? He said:

“we are in a different situation now ... I think we’ve got the highest tax burden since world war two.”

What about railways? Starmer was, of course, previously committed to nationalising the railways. Now he says of water, rail and other services:

“I take a pragmatic approach rather than an ideological one.”

I say to Anas Sarwar that we are prepared to work with any political party in order to keep the Tories out of number 10. Why is Keir Starmer refusing to work with the Scottish National Party in order to keep the Tories out of number 10? We are the most progressive party on these islands. I say to Anas Sarwar that I do not want to be rid of Tory Governments just for one year, five years or one election cycle; we want to be rid of Tory Governments in Scotland for good.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

Yet again, the First Minister is more interested in attacking Labour than in getting rid of a Tory Government. [

Interruption

.]

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

It is really interesting that the First Minister did not want to talk about poll ratings with me. Why? His approval rating is minus 12. Twenty-two per cent of people say that he is competent; 40 per cent say that he is incompetent. Eighteen per cent say that he is trustworthy; 42 per cent say that he is untrustworthy. Nineteen per cent say that he is strong; 39 per cent say that he is weak. Nineteen per cent say that he is doing well; 44 per cent say that he is doing badly. Best of all is this: 9 per cent say that he is better than his predecessor; 41 per cent say that he is worse than his predecessor. He is a pale imitation of Nicola Sturgeon. I am not sure whether that is a compliment any more.

The SNP and the Tories are two sides of the same coin. Both want division, both want chaos, both want to damage Labour and both want a Tory Government. It is all about saving their jobs—[

Interruption

.]

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

— and not acting in the interests of the people of Scotland.

Scotland is desperate for change and desperate to get rid of two failing Governments—an economically illiterate and morally bankrupt Tory party and a dysfunctional and incompetent SNP Government. [

Interruption

.] If people want change and want lower bills, more money in their pockets, the end of fire and rehire, the transformation of workers’ rights, the creation of thousands of jobs—

The Presiding Officer:

Mr Sarwar, I am sorry to disrupt this session further, but members are doing a very good job on that account. I would be grateful if members could remember the basic rules of the code of conduct, which require that we conduct ourselves with courtesy and respect. I am seeing little of that, and that is not continuing.

Mr Sarwar, please put your question to the First Minister.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

SNP members do not like it. Change is coming, and they do not like that they have been found out and that they are plummeting. They do not like putting more money into people’s pockets through a proper windfall tax. They do not like ending fire and rehire and scrapping the anti-trade union laws. They do not like creating tens of thousands of new jobs.

The Presiding Officer:

Question, Mr Sarwar.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

Surely even the First Minister can see that Scotland needs change and that it can be delivered only by a Labour Government.

The First Minister:

Presiding Officer, I am grateful that you stepped in to save the branch manager of the Scottish Labour Party.

The reason why Scotland will not trust Keir Starmer, of course, is that he is a born-again Brexiteer. It should be remembered that Brexit has caused economic devastation to this country. Anas Sarwar said that he wants a changing relationship with the European Union. We want a relationship with the EU that means that Scotland is back in the European Union—that we rejoin it. The only way in which to do that is, of course, as an independent nation and country.

Here is the real proof of the fact that Keir Starmer’s Labour Party has lurched to the right again. The very first major speaking event that I went to as First Minister was at the Scottish Trades Union Congress. Anas Sarwar was there. One person who was not invited was Keir Starmer. Dundee Trades Union Council brought forward a motion that condemned Keir Starmer’s actions and behaviours. Labour members might well be led by someone who is named after the founder of the Labour Party, but if Keir Hardie could see the state that the Labour Party is in now, he would be birling in his grave.