Starmer to meet Swinney to discuss 'better' working together

cabinet meeting
The new prime minister hosted his first cabinet meeting on Saturday [PA Media]

Sir Keir Starmer will travel to Scotland on Sunday to discuss ways of improving the working relationship with the Scottish government .

The new prime minister said Scotland would be the first stop in a tour of the UK nations, and he would meet First Minister John Swinney.

He said he would discuss the challenges of the day, but also try "to establish a way of working across the United Kingdom that will be different and better from the way of working that we've had in recent years".

Sir Keir was speaking at a news conference at Downing Street after the first meeting of his new cabinet.

The two leaders had already spoken on the phone on Friday evening

Mr Swinney congratulated Sir Keir on his appointment and committed to work with his government on "areas of mutual interest".

A spokesperson for the first minister said he believed there were ways in which the two governments could work together for the "benefit of people in Scotland".

The SNP lost a total of 38 seats in the general election, with one still to declare due to a recount.

Labour had a landslide win across the UK, with a dramatic improvement in its fortunes in Scotland, rising from one MP to 37.

The central belt saw big gains for the party with most of its results following vote share swings of about 20% from the SNP.

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Sir Keir said the results had given him a mandate from all parts of the UK.

He said: "For the first time in 20 plus years, we have a majority in England, in Scotland and in Wales and that is a clear mandate to govern for all four corners of the United Kingdom.

“Therefore I will set off tomorrow to be in all four nations. I shall go first to Scotland, then to Northern Ireland, then to Wales and then back to England where I will meet the first ministers.

“Not just to discuss the issues and challenges of the day, of course we will do that, but also to establish a way of working across the United Kingdom that will be different and better to the way we’ve had in recent years and to recognise the contributions of all four nations."

After speaking to Sir Keir on Friday, a spokesperson for Mr Swinney said he had "committed to working collaboratively and co-operatively with the UK government on areas of mutual interest".

The spokesperson added: "The first minister has outlined his priorities in government and believes there are many ways in which the two governments can work together to deliver progress on them for the benefit of people in Scotland."

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, joining newly-elected Labour MP Blair McDougall in Clarkston on Saturday, also called for a reset of relations between the two governments.

“We have made history and turned Scottish politics on its head," he told BBC Scotland News.

"The politics of division and fear is in retreat and the politics of hope and unity is on the rise.

“No more politicians thinking about themselves and putting their party before the country. Instead politics back to being about public service and delivering for the Scottish people.

“One key part of that is resetting that relationship, going back to the founding principles of devolution, where governments work together to deliver for the Scottish people, that will be our first priority."

Relations between the UK and Scottish governments have often been strained in the past.

Legislation passed at Holyrood on gender recognition was blocked by Westminster on grounds it would interfere with the operation of the UK-wide Equality Act, and Scotland's proposed deposit return scheme was also a source of tension.

Mr Swinney has claimed that the result of the 2021 Scottish Parliament election is a mandate for another independence referendum, but the UK government has refused to agree to one, claiming the 2014 referendum result is still valid.