Ousting Tories ‘a chance Scotland cannot afford to miss’ – Sarwar and Swinney

Kicking the Tories out of Government is an “opportunity Scotland cannot afford to miss”, Anas Sarwar and John Swinney have agreed.

The leaders of the four Scots parties that won seats at Westminster in the 2019 election met in the first televised debate of the campaign on Monday.

In the exchanges, the leaders of Scottish Labour and the SNP found a rare point of consensus.

“So surely you agree getting rid of this Tory Government is an opportunity Scotland can’t afford to miss?”

“I absolutely agree that we should get rid of this Tory Government,” the First Minister responded.

But he added that the SNP was the nearest rival in every Tory seat in Scotland.

Mr Sarwar said that, while the SNP can beat Scottish Tory MPs, “Labour can get rid of an entire Tory Government”.

Anas Sarwar
The Scottish Labour leader said the Tories should be ‘begging for forgiveness’ (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Sarwar earlier told Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross he should be “begging for forgiveness” after 14 years in power rather than “pleading for votes”.

Mr Ross said he was not “downplaying the difficult circumstances that are facing people in Scotland, across the UK and indeed in many other parts of the world”.

The parliamentary candidate for Moray admitted he was wrong in his attempts to get the Scottish Government to cut taxes along with the UK administration of Liz Truss.

Douglas Ross
The Scottish Tory leader said the UK Government was making decisions to boost the economy (Andrew Milligan/PA)

On Monday, Mr Ross said: “I looked at that budget and assumed like every budget (John Swinney) delivered in the Scottish Parliament and every budget I’ve sat through at Westminster, that they had gone through the normal processes with the Treasury, with the civil servants, to make sure that they were enforceable that the work had been done behind the scenes to make sure what had been announced was deliverable.

“That hadn’t been done.

“And I hold my hands up, I assumed that had been done.”

The lack of work has “had an impact on household incomes”, Mr Ross added, but he also said the UK Government was “taking decisions to improve the economy”.

One of the main topics in the debate was the future of the oil and gas industry.

John Swinney
The First Minister did not commit to a position on exploration for oil and gas (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Scottish Government’s current position – according to its draft energy strategy – is a presumption against new drilling, but the First Minister has been reluctant to confirm the policy will remain in the finalised document.

Instead he said he would want a “climate compatibility test on every single decision we take in relation to the oil and gas sector”.

Mr Ross interjected, saying: “That’s a no, John Swinney and the SNP are against new oil and gas licences.”

The Scottish Labour leader pledged his party would “put our money where our mouth is” at Grangemouth, where the oil refinery is to be scheduled to be closed.

Mr Sarwar said: “We would step in to save the jobs at the refinery and invest in that transition by making an energy transition hub at Grangemouth, and we would put hundreds of millions of pounds behind it.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton
The Lib Dems had consulted on fishing proposals, Alex Cole-Hamilton said (Michael Boyd/PA)

This was in contrast to abandoned proposals from the Scottish Government last year which angered rural people.

“The UK policy (proposed by the Lib Dems) has actually learned from the mistakes of the widespread and hated highly protected marine areas,” he said.

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