‘Long search’ for anyone trying to find division between Scottish and UK Labour

Sir Keir Starmer was speaking after Scottish and UK Labour appeared at odds in recent months over welfare and gender reforms.

Anyone looking to find division between Scottish and UK Labour will have a “long, long search”, Sir Keir Starmer has said, despite apparent divergences recently.

The party north and south of the border has expressed different positions in recent months, particularly around the two-child benefit cap and gender reforms.

Last month, Sir Keir would not commit to scrapping the benefit cap – which disallows benefits being claimed on more than two children unless the third can be proved to have been conceived through rape – if his party won the next election, citing economic uncertainty.

Anas Sarwar, Keir Starmer and Michael Shanks
Michael Shanks, the party’s candidate in the upcoming by-election, pictured right with Sir Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar, has voiced his opposition to some UK Labour stances (Robert Perry/PA)

But the following day, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said his party disagreed with the policy, and he would “press” a UK Labour Government to drop it.

In December, Scottish Labour also backed plans – which were ultimately blocked by the UK Government – for Scotland to move to a system of self-identification for transgender people, removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Last month, Sir Keir described the move as “not the right way forward”, however, Michael Shanks, the Labour candidate in the upcoming Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election, said he backed the “de-medicalisation” of the process.

Speaking during a visit to Edinburgh on Monday, the Labour leader played down any assertions of a split between the two parties.

“Anas and I have got a very, very strong working relationship,” he said.

“So anybody who’s trying to find division is going to have a very, very long search.

“We obviously talk about these issues a great deal.”

Sir Keir went on to say his party, if it were to win the keys to Downing Street at the next election, would implement an “anti-poverty strategy” that would not “simply be a question of welfare benefits”.

“I want to grow our economy and give everybody, including in Scotland and elsewhere, the opportunity to be part of that growing economy,” he said.

Sir Keir also responded to comments from First Minister Humza Yousaf at an Edinburgh Festival Fringe show that a minority Labour government would be “the best outcome for Scotland”.

The Labour leader said: “I want a majority Labour government so that we can fix and rebuild our country and take our country forward, so that’s what I’m aiming for.

“I’m not going to do a deal with the SNP, and among the reasons for that is the appalling record they’ve got in Government.

“So my ambition is to actually drive Britain forward to that better future that I’m absolutely convinced that we can achieve.”

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