Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to defeat Nicola Sturgeon’s party as he heralded the Labour Party as one with the “confidence to fight the SNP as well as the Tories”.
The Labour leader also referred to former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier, telling an audience in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, that his party had chased the “rule breakers” out of Downing Street and would seek to remove her from the House of Commons.
Ms Ferrier sits as an independent MP after being suspended from the SNP since it emerged she breached coronavirus rules when she took a train from London to Scotland despite testing positive for the virus.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to Angel Cafe in All Saints Church, Beacon Centre in Chafford Hundred, Essex Kirsty O'Connor
He told the Keir Hardie Dinner on Thursday he took a “dim view of politicians who cling to power, who put their own status above the decent thing to do, even when found guilty of breaking the rules that protected us all” and declared: “So let us say to the local MP here – time’s up.
“My Labour Party has chased the rule-breakers out of Downing Street, and we’ll chase them out of Hamilton and Rutherglen too.
“We won’t stop there. Do not doubt us: and I hope you can see this, this is a Labour Party with the confidence to fight the SNP as well as the Tories.
“We’ll take them on in Airdrie, Clydesdale, Motherwell and East Kilbride. Lanarkshire – North and South. All across the central belt, where the battle for a fairer, greener, Scotland in a fairer, greener Britain must be won.”
Labour has just one MP in Scotland, Ian Murray, who represents Edinburgh South, and trails the Scottish Tories in Holyrood with 22 MSPs to their 31.
The SNP has 64 MSPs in the Scottish Parliament and 44 MPs in Westminster.
Sir Keir said the country faced a “long, hard winter” but the challenges of “the cost-of-living crisis, climate change, standing up to Putin, are common across our union”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during her visit to Buchanan Street Residential Children's Home in Coatbridge Andrew Milligan
“Sticking a border between Scotland and England solves none of them,” he said, and added: “Scotland needs a Labour Government in Westminster that can deliver change that’s right for working people – everywhere in England, and Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland.
“But we must also be clear that Scotland needs the power and resources to shape its own future, whoever’s in power in Westminster.”
Sir Keir told the dinner, named after the founder of the Labour Party, that the SNP were “not interested in this”.
“For them, Scotland’s success in the UK: its leadership on renewable energy, its vital contribution to British security, its cultural brilliance and history of innovation, all achieved within this union by the solidarity, hope and idealism of working people – are met with denials, or a diminishing ‘ah but’,” he said.
“Well no more. We won’t work with them, we will defeat them.
“The party that stands for a fairer, greener Scotland is the same party that stands for a fairer, greener, Britain.
“It’s this Labour party, and together we will deliver both.”
In response, the SNP's Westminster Depute Leader, Kirsten Oswald MP, said:
“Labour under Keir Starmer is a pro-Brexit party which stands shoulder to shoulder with the Tories in denying democracy in Scotland.
"The problem with Keir Starmer's Labour is that they believe they only way to beat the Tories is by turning into them.
"Under his leadership, they have adopted the Tories' extreme Brexit ideology, have denied the people of Scotland their democratic right to choose their own future, and has prioritised grubby council coalitions with the Tories across Scotland.
"While Labour has slid into irrelevance in places like North Lanarkshire, the SNP will continue to stand up for Scotland's interests. However, only with independence can we build a fairer society and escape this corrupt, dysfunctional Westminster system for good."