Keir Starmer has launched a blistering attack on Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the pandemic.
He also accused Sturgeon of an “appalling” series of failures on health, education and drug deaths.
Starmer is believed to have had a successful Labour conference in Brighton, but polls still show Labour trailing the Tories.
Party strategists believe for Starmer to enter Downing Street Scottish Labour will have to win seats from the SNP at the general election.
Speaking to the Record, he offered a highly negative view of how Sturgeon had dealt with the coronavirus.
A recent report blasted the Tory Government’s for pandemic failures, but Starmer took aim at Sturgeon:
“Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the pandemic hasn’t been, if you look at the relative numbers, has not been better than Johnson’s.
“She may have communicated differently, but actually when you look at it, whether it’s on the number of deaths, proportion of deaths, the inequalities that have been exposed by it, or test and protect….again [it] has been a failure.”
He said: “I think Nicola Sturgeon said that she wants to be judged on her record. But if you look at her record on education, it’s appalling. If you look at her record on health and the health service, it’s appalling.
“You look at the drug related deaths, the record is appalling. If you look at child poverty, which I think went into legislation in 2017 – consistently missing the target.
“So you can see very clearly what’s going on here which is, as ever, using the constitution issue to mask an appalling record of failure by the SNP.”
He repeated his outright opposition to any deal with the SNP at Westminster:
“No deal before an election, no deal after an election. I am absolutely all square with Scottish Labour on that. Very clear.”
Starmer rubbished Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross’ claims that his party stood for working people:
“Just look [at] what is happening for working families right now. Their prices are going up, whether that’s fuel, whether that’s energy, whether that’s food. Almost every bill is going up. Wages have not increased, despite what the government says.
“The national insurance tax was a deliberate decision to hit working people, and it will hit working people. So the idea that they’re the party of working families is ridiculous, and it’s not an argument that can be sustained on any analysis whatsoever.”
On the polls, which are worrying party sources who believe Labour should be well ahead of the Tories, he said:
“I think we are getting a hearing again. People are prepared to listen to us. We’ve now got to use what happened at conference, which was very positive for us, to make that argument into the elections we’ve got here next year and then obviously into the next general election.
“I’ve seen two polls in the last week that have got [a] 10 point difference in where we are in the polling. One says we’re 10 points behind. One says we’re one point behind. So, I always take the polls slightly with a pinch of salt.”
An SNP spokesperson said: “Once again, Keir Starmer shows how little he actually knows about anything going on in Scotland. The people of Scotland had their say on our record in government – and our ambitious plans to lead Scotland through the pandemic and into a sustainable recovery – in May’s election. The SNP recorded its highest ever share of the constituency vote, while Labour slumped to its worst ever result.
“If Keir Starmer wants to know what poor leadership looks like, maybe he should reflect on the fact that despite being in opposition to the most shambolic, callous, crony-infested Westminster government in living memory, he is still trailing Boris Johnson’s Tories in the opinion polls.”
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