Jeremy Corbyn has attacked the Conservatives for having the same “narrow nationalist” agenda as the SNP in an appeal to voters in Scotland not to abandon Labour at the polls next month.
Following a week in domestic politics dominated by a confrontation over Gibraltar and calls for the return of blue passports after Brexit, the Labour leader said the Conservatives were becoming increasingly “obsessed” with British nationalism as the UK leaves the EU.
And he warned that cuts to local services would accelerate if more councils came under the control of the SNP, with the party “only interested in a second independence referendum”.
Polling analysis this week suggested Labour could slip to third place in local elections in Scotland on 4 May, with both the SNP and the Conservatives gaining at their expense with the electorate polarised by Brexit and the possibility of a second independence referendum.
Professor John Curtice warned that Labour risks losing in every local authority where it holds power, including its once unassailable stronghold in Glasgow, one of four councils where the party has a majority.
Corbyn told Scotland on Sunday that handing the SNP further power “would be bad for Scotland and the Scottish people”.
“Labour will be focused on delivering quality local services, such as schools and social care, and standing up for our NHS,” he said.
“If you vote Labour you will elect a local champion; if you vote SNP you will elect a councillor who is only interested in a second independence referendum.”
Corbyn said growing child poverty, which now affects one in four children in Scotland, was evidence of the SNP’s “abysmal” record after 10 years in government at Holyrood.
He added that the Scottish Government was failing to use new powers on tax and welfare, with Labour joining calls from the Child Poverty Action Group for a £240 increase in child benefit.
“That’s the choice facing Glaswegians and voters across Scotland and I hope they think about that choice before casting their vote,” said Corbyn.
“The SNP will not protect services in Glasgow, nor will it tackle the deep underlying problems of poverty that are scandalously prevalent in the city. In fact, evidence tells us that the SNP will exacerbate them.
“The educational attainment gap is increasing; working poverty in Scotland is at its highest level since devolution; and only this week figures revealed that Scottish economic output has contracted. I would urge voters to reject the competing nationalisms of the Tories and SNP and vote Labour for a fairer and more just Scotland.”
Corbyn added: “The Tories are not the party of working people. They are the party which cuts tax for the very rich whilst sucking the life out of our public services and reducing the living standards and life chances for the many.”
“It’s clearer than ever that while the Tories and the SNP are becoming obsessed with narrow nationalism, only Labour wants to transform and challenge our rigged economy.”
The SNP claimed Labour was failing as an effective opposition to the Conservatives and that under Corbyn’s leadership the party had let the UK government “off the hook time and time again” on welfare and the risks from a hard Brexit.
An SNP spokesman said: “When Labour talk euphemistically about ‘using the powers of the Scottish Parliament’ what they really mean is hiking the basic rate of income tax, which would take hundreds of pounds away from families on modest incomes just as the consequences of Brexit are starting to be felt.
“Kezia Dugdale herself said that Labour would be carping from the sidelines with Jeremy Corbyn as leader, and with ill-informed, out of touch comments such as these, it’s clear that Labour will be in that position for some time to come.”