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Yousaf invites Starmer for talks to ‘establish working relationship’

Scotland’s First Minister has invited Sir Keir Starmer to Bute House to put “political differences” aside to work together following the general election.

In a letter to the Labour leader, Humza Yousaf said differing political views should not “prevent us being able to work together”.

He wrote: “I hope you will accept this invitation to meet and that we can establish a working relationship in the interests of the people we represent.”

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme, Mr Yousaf appealed to Sir Keir to work with the SNP on reducing child poverty and strengthening relations between the UK and Scottish governments.

Keir Starmer visit to Liverpool
Sir Keir Starmer will ‘absolutely’ be the next prime minister, according to Humza Yousaf (Peter Byrne/PA)

He told the programme Sir Keir will “absolutely” be the next UK prime minister, and said he must tackle child poverty by committing to scrap the two-child benefit cap – which the Labour leader has previously not committed to.

The policy prevents parents from claiming child tax credits or universal credit for a third or subsequent child born after April 2017. A so-called rape clause, which requires women to declare their child was conceived as a result of rape in order to maintain the benefits, should also be scrapped, the First Minister said.

Previously, Mr Yousaf said the SNP’s conditions of working with Labour would be Sir Keir paving the way for a future Scottish independence referendum.

In his letter, published on Sunday, the First Minister made clear independence is still a priority.

“My Government is clear that Scotland’s future is as an independent country in the European Union, and that there is a democratic mandate for a referendum on independence which should be respected,” he said.

He later told Kuenssberg: “I’d like to speak to Keir Starmer as the man who will undoubtedly be the next prime minister.”

In a direct appeal to the Labour leader, he said: “SNP MPs will work with you.

“When it comes to Keir Starmer being the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, which I think he absolutely will be, I should say I’m very willing to work with an incoming Labour government.

“I think there’s plenty that we can work on. There will be disagreements – the constitution perhaps being the obvious one.”

Anas Sarwar
Anas Sarwar said he wants to persuade people that Labour ‘can make Scotland work within a devolved settlement’ (PA)

It was put to Mr Yousaf on the programme that independence is unlikely to be offered by Sir Keir. Asked whether he accepts independence is unlikely to happen anytime soon, he said: “I don’t accept that.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar later said he does not believe the independence debate will end if his party wins the election.

In an appeal to SNP voters, he told BBC Radio Scotland’s The Sunday Show: “I think there’s still a raging debate in the country around the constitution, but that is not what this general election is going to be about.

“I’ve been really clear that I’m not going to turn my back, close my eyes, or shut my ears to any voter in the country, whether they voted Yes or No (to independence).

“I want to reach out to people across the country to say ‘I understand why so many people have wanted to run a million miles from this rotten Tory Government’.”

Asked whether his party will use a Labour win to “endorse the Union”, Mr Sarwar said: “No, because I want to persuade people that we can make Scotland work within a devolved settlement.”

A Labour spokesperson said Scots are “crying out for change not just from the tories but from the SNP”.

They said: “From a culture of secrecy and cover-up to life-threatening failures in our NHS, Humza Yousaf’s party is failing working people.

“Humza Yousaf should spend less time commenting on elections and more on fixing the mess the SNP have made.

“Not a single vote has been cast – Labour has no complacency over the coming election.

“Only a Labour government can deliver the change that Scotland and all of the UK needs.”