Nicola Sturgeon “does not have the courage” to tell her supporters that now is not the time for a referendum, a leading Labor MP has claimed.
Ahead of an appearance at the Scottish Labor conference this weekend, Wes Streeting attacked the First Minister for putting independence “ahead of the needs of Scotland”.
Streeting, one of the brightest stars on Keir Starmer’s reshuffled team, made the comments in an interview with the Daily Record.
Labor’s Shadow Health Secretary repeated Starmer’s mantra that “no way” would there be a Labor referendum deal with the SNP going into a general election.
He said: “Nicola Sturgeon, as someone who’s championed the cause of Scottish independence all her life, she knows in her heart that having an independence referendum now would be highly irresponsible, given everything else that’s going on in our country and in peoples’ lives .”
“But she doesn’t have the courage to tell her activists, she fears that they will flock to Salmond’s outfit or another separatist movement. Ella she’s worried about the fracturing of the nationalist cause and she’s putting the ideological focus on independence ahead of the needs of the people of Scotland. ”
Streeting insisted he would arrive in Scotland as the bearer of the “good news” that there is the prospect of a Labor government under Keir Starmer.
With Labor ten points ahead in the latest UK polls, he said: “I have not felt more confident about Labour’s ability to win a general election than at any point since we lost power.”
“There’s a positive case to make to Scottish voters from a UK Labor perspective, which is that we can get rid of the Tories in Westminster in the next general election.”
“Boris Johnson is now damaged goods, nobody can trust a word he says, he’s lied repeatedly not just to parliament but to the country. It’s our responsibility to set out a clear alternative to the Tories in Westminster.”
Streeting, 39, has just been given the all-clear after recovering from kidney cancer last year and is in a hurry to get on with life.
He said: “I still think it’s pretty remarkable that in the space of less than a year I’ve gone through diagnosis, treatment and recovery. So, I’m sort of fighting fit, it has definitely made me more impatient or more hungry for change.”
Health, his Westminster brief and a returned power in Scotland, is Streeting’s big campaigning point and he promised a Labor government would write the next chapter of NHS history as Labor wrote the first chapter post-war.
Streeting also said Labor can make a case to Scots that chimes with voters’ hopes rather than fears.
He said: “I don’t think we need to dwell on ‘Project Fear’ when we’ve got ‘Project Future’.”
“I think Anas Sarwar and Keir Starmer are painting a picture of a new United Kingdom that people would want to be part of, not because they’re frightened of the alternative, but because it’s something they find appealing and attractive.”
He said: “Families in every part of the UK have common experiences and concerns. They are worried about the impact of cost of living pressures on their family finances, they’re worried about their jobs prospects and public services and the future of the National Health Service post-pandemic.
“They’re ambitious for our country, and want to see positive change in every aspect of their lives, and they can’t get that from the SNP in Scotland or the Tories at Westminster.”
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