Scottish Elections 2021: Why voting Labour will simply help Boris Johnson – Keith Brown

There is an inherent dishonesty at the heart of Labour’s Holyrood election offer to the people of Scotland.

Anas Sarwar is due to unveil his manifesto this week – yet he has already admitted the very best he can do on May 6 is edge out the Tories to come second.

So when he delivers his manifesto speech, he knows he is misleading Scotland. He knows every word, every promise is hollow and destined for the dustbin.

Meanwhile, Keir Starmer’s Westminster Labour Party is stuck in reverse gear. Instead of making gains on the chaotic and sleaze-ridden government of hard-Brexit champion Boris Johnson, Starmer’s Labour is slipping further and further behind in the polls, suggesting the party at UK level will remain out of office for many years to come.

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That means a vote for Anas Sarwar is simply a vote to allow Johnson and his cronies to continue inflicting damaging policies on Scotland – policies that voters here have consistently rejected.

Scotland’s poorest still bear the scars of the last decade of Tory austerity. The current Chancellor believes austerity was the right choice. Without independence, he’ll be in charge of managing our recovery, meaning renewed austerity and the poorest in society once more paying the highest price.

And there is an even deeper deception at the heart of Scottish Labour They are a party who frequently berate the SNP Scottish government over policies which they know are ultimately controlled by Westminster – but which they are determined to leave there.

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Anas Sarwar has admitted Scottish Labour's aim is to become the official opposition, rather than win the election (Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA)

Anas Sarwar knows all this. But he also knows that, without Scottish MPs, Labour will never get back into power at Westminster.

So, he chooses to defend Westminster control of Scotland, and in doing so, he sacrifices the futures of the very people his party should be protecting. That is not just misleading, it is downright shameful.

Scottish Labour have managed to turn facing both ways on key issues into something of an art form – and if those issues weren’t so serious it might even be funny.

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Take nuclear weapons. Labour in Scotland professes to be opposed to them. But the UK party embraces the obscenity of Trident and its grotesquely wasteful renewal.

Anas Sarwar has said he backs the principle of a Universal Basic Income. Keir Starmer opposes it.

Scottish Labour claims to be in favour of policies which would give Holyrood greater power to tackle poverty and address inequality – yet they oppose the transfer of many of the key powers from Westminster which would enable that.

The list goes on. But nowhere is that deception more dangerous than when it comes to the future of Scotland’s NHS. The last year has demonstrated just how much we should cherish and protect our health service, and in an independent Scotland we can be certain that Westminster will never be able to open up our NHS to privatisation.

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But be in no doubt, that threat is very real. The British Medical Association, the doctors’ union, has said: “The NHS in England has been forced down a route of increased marketisation and privatisation.”

The existence of the Holyrood parliament has enabled the Scottish government to resist this Westminster trend for greater private involvement. And it has allowed us to invest in the service – like the extra £2.5 billion committed by the SNP in our manifesto.

But Johnson, and his most senior government colleagues – the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary – have all made it clear they think Scotland gets too much money for health and other public services.

They want to get much more involved in policy areas currently under the control of Holyrood – and have forced through a new law, called the Internal Market Bill, to enable them to do so.

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The UK government says this new law will not apply to the delivery of healthcare. But if you look at the small print you can see they’ve given themselves the power to bring what they call “healthcare services provided in hospitals, other healthcare facilities or at other places” within the scope of the Act.

This means health policy could be subject to what are called “market access principles” and that decision will rest entirely with Westminster and not our parliament here in Scotland.

The evidence of the threat is piling up. One of the main arguments for Brexit was to enable the UK government to do trade deals with countries like the US. American drug companies believe the NHS pays too little for medicines, which reduces their profits, and have made it clear they want that to change as part of any trade deal.

The former UK ambassador to the US has said: “Do they want us to pay more for their pharmaceuticals? Do the pharmaceutical companies want to use this leverage? Of course they do.”

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It’s important to remember that the Labour government under Tony Blair was also enthusiastic about more private involvement in the NHS. That’s relevant because Labour is moving once again towards a more Blairite agenda.

Just how far Scottish Labour under Anas Sarwar are prepared to embrace that agenda remains to be seen.

But it’s clear that Sarwar and Starmer’s respective leaderships are out of step with the times when it comes to the debate on Scotland’s future.

Polls show a sizeable chunk of Scottish Labour voters back independence, while fully 60 per cent of Labour members across the UK back an independence referendum.

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No one should be in any doubt at this election. A vote for Labour is a vote for a party which is trying to perpetrate a profound deception, and is also a vote which would help Boris Johnson deny Scotland the right to choose our own future and imperil our public services, including the NHS.

Keith Brown is the SNP candidate for Clackmannanshire & Dunblane and depute leader of the SNP

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