Keir Starmer meets John Swinney in Edinburgh


Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer has met Prime Minister John Swinney for the first time since taking office. Labour wins landslide election victory.

Sir Keir met Mr Swinney at the Prime Minister’s official residence in Edinburgh during the new Prime Minister’s UK tour.

The visit comes days after Labour’s position in Scotland improved dramatically.

The party now has 37 of Scotland’s 57 MPs, up from just one in 2019. The SNP has 39 fewer, leaving just nine MPs in Westminster.

After holding his first Cabinet meeting on Saturday, Sir Keir announced he would tour the four nations of the United Kingdom.

He promised “an immediate reset” of relations with devolved leaders, adding: “Because meaningful collaboration, based on respect, will be key to delivering change in the UK.”

After their meeting, Mr Swinney said the two had agreed to improve the relationship between the Scottish and British governments, which had been “very poor” under the previous Conservative government.

He said he hoped Sir Keir could ‘deliver’ on his promise to repair the relationship between Westminster and Holyrood.

They pledged to work together on areas of “common ground” – including ending child poverty, growing the economy, achieving net zero and improving public services, Swinney said.

Scottish independence

On independence, Mr Swinney said: “We have made it clear that we have different views on the Constitution.”

He reiterated his support for independence but acknowledged the SNP needed to ‘reflect’ on the election result.

Asked whether the Scottish Government still believed it had a mandate for an independence referendum, he replied: “The 2021 (Holyrood) election elected a parliament that exists today and has a parliamentary majority in favour of the goal of Scottish independence and the achievement of that independence through a referendum.

“I think the democratic will of the Scottish people after that election must be respected.”

A pro-Palestinian protest was held outside the official residenceA pro-Palestinian protest was held outside the official residence

A pro-Palestinian protest was held outside the official residence (Reuters)

Pro-Palestinian protesters held a demonstration outside Bute House, where the meeting was taking place.

The leaders were expected to pose for a photo outside Bute House.

However, because of the protest, the Prime Minister entered and exited through the back door.

Mr Swinney said the Gaza issue was not discussed but the protest showed the “strength of feeling” on the issue.

He called for an immediate ceasefire, an end to arms sales to Israel and the recognition of Palestine as an independent state.

Before meeting Mr Swinney at Bute House, Sir Keir spoke at an event with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

He said he would govern as a ‘changed Labour’.

Sir Keir described victory in the general election as part one of his party’s plan, and part two when the next Holyrood election takes place in 2026.

The Prime Minister promised to govern on behalf of everyone in Scotland, including those who did not vote for the party.

He said: “I asked people in Scotland to put their trust and faith in Labour. I said if they did, we would deliver for Scotland.”

Sir Keir added: “And that’s why I wanted to stand here today, to deliver on that promise, to deliver on that commitment at the earliest opportunity.”

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(BBC channel)

Mr Sarwar also said the new British government would ‘reset’ devolution.

He told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Show: “We will always put the country first, before our own political party.

“So we will work with everyone to deliver for the people of Scotland. And that is why Keir Starmer’s first visit outside Downing Street comes to Scotland.”

Mr Sarwar was asked whether the new Labour government would introduce a separate Scottish immigration system, allowing workers to come to the country with a separate tax regime, to help address labour shortages north of the border.

He replied: “No. We need one UK Border Agency. Of course we need one immigration system.”

He added: “But if you have two governments that are prepared to work together, you can find separate solutions for Scotland.”

He cited as an example the Fresh Talent initiative, introduced 20 years ago by the Labour-led Scottish government to tackle the shrinking population.

The programme encouraged graduates from Scottish universities abroad to remain in Scotland to work.

James Cook corr boxJames Cook corr box

(BBC channel)

For Sir Keir, this is a lightning visit to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales before he meets English mayors on Tuesday.

The message is quite clear: the focus is on the United Kingdom.

But the work isn’t over yet: the party now hopes to take control of the Scottish Government from the SNP at the 2026 Holyrood elections.

That means the change Labour has promised Scottish voters must be implemented as soon as possible.

It will be a huge challenge given that the party has pledged to stick to the Conservative Party’s spending plans and some of its welfare provisions.

The clock is ticking.

Scotland has now seen a dramatic swing from Labour to the SNP and back again in the Westminster elections in less than a decade, leading to painful soul-searching for supporters of Scottish independence.

But it is also a reminder to Labour that voters can change their minds quickly.


(BBC channel)

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