Swinney to press people to ‘vote SNP to put Scotland’s interests first’

John Swinney will urge people to “vote SNP to put Scotland’s interests first” as he formally launches the party’s General Election campaign.

Addressing activists and candidates at a rally in Glasgow on Sunday, Mr Swinney will say that Westminster decision-making has meant “austerity, Brexit and a cost-of-living crisis being imposed on Scotland”.

Scotland’s First Minister will stress his belief in independence as a way to ensure decisions about Scotland are made in Scotland.

And he will urge people to vote SNP in the July 4 General Election to remove the Tories from government.

General Election campaign 2024
SNP leader John Swinney on the campaign trail earlier this month (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Swinney is expected to say: “A combination of Westminster cuts and Brexit has reduced the money available for the NHS, other public services and housing.

“Brexit alone has wiped billions from the Scottish economy compared with EU membership. And it’s pushed up food and other household costs.

“Given the UK is moving so badly in the wrong direction I would be failing in my duty if I did not set out what I believe is a better future for Scotland.

“The opportunity of higher living standards and a better funded NHS, with decisions about Scotland made in Scotland. That’s why I believe in independence.”

Mr Swinney will say that he believes in bringing people together and a “politics of persuasion or, if that’s not possible, respectful disagreement”.

He will tell those at the rally: “I believe in our wonderful, diverse, inspiring country – that everyone should have a chance to get on in life. It’s why I believe so strongly in eradicating child poverty.

“At this election it is those principles that will guide my approach. So I am asking people to vote SNP to remove the Tories from government.

“I’m asking people to vote SNP to put Scotland’s interests first. I’m asking people to vote for a future made in Scotland, for Scotland.”

Mr Swinney will say that in the few weeks he has been First Minister he has been “crystal clear that I am focusing on people’s top concerns”.

He will speak of his pride in what the SNP has done in government, highlighting free prescriptions, the abolition of university tuition fees, free bus travel for under-22s and the Scottish Child Payment.

He will say: “In our NHS, Scotland has had the best-performing core A and E units in the UK for nine years.

“On the economy, under the SNP, Scotland has had faster economic growth, per head, than the UK.

“On housing, under the SNP, Scotland has seen 40% more affordable homes per head than in England, and over 70% more than in Wales.”

Craig Hoy MSP, Scottish Conservative chairman, said: “John Swinney has abandoned any pretence that he is a fresh start with this desperate defence of the SNP’s dreadful record in government.

“Thanks to his party and their independence obsession, 840,000 Scots are on an NHS waiting list, schools have tumbled down international comparison tables, we have the lowest numbers of police officers since 2008 and savage cuts to local services.

“All this comes despite Scotland having the largest UK block grants in history and the highest taxes of any part of the UK.

“The future Scots want is with a government focused on their real priorities, which means removing the SNP.

“And in key seats up and down the country, only the Scottish Conservatives can beat the SNP and end their independence obsession.”