Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has accused SNP MPs of being ‘found wanting’ as she accused the party’s representatives of prioritising independence.
Ms Dugdale was in Greenock with her party’s local candidate Martin McCluskey, who has put protecting services at the town’s Inverclyde Royal hospital at the heart of his campaign.
The Lothians MSP told the Scotsman: “The NHS is Labour’s finest achievement, and myself and all our candidates want to protect that.
“Just like Mhairi Black when it comes to the Royal Alexandra hospital (RAH) in Paisley, the SNP MP in Inverclyde [Ronnie Cowan] has just not done the work to stand up for his community’s interests.
“How do I know? Because when I visit high streets people come and tell me in their hundreds that they are angry about broken promises.”
Labour have previously criticised the high profile Ms Black, who was the youngest MP during the last parliament, for not speaking out in support of a campaign to save a paediatric in-patient service at the RAH.
At the weekend, SNP politicians reacted angrily to Kezia Dugdale’s comments on Sky News that the party’s MPs go to Westminster to boost the independence cause.
Glasgow Central candidate Alison Thewliss said it was “a curious statement given Kezia Dugdale’s previous support of my work on rape clause and the two child policy.”.
Ms Dugdale said in response today: “I said very clearly that there is a choice for voters in this election in terms of what kind of MP you want to send to Westminster.
“You can send a local champion like Martin McCluskey in Inverclyde or like many of our other candidates across the country who will go and fight for your community at Westminster.
“Or, you could send an SNP MP who will fight for independence. That is the top priority for those respective parties.”
The Scottish Labour leader denied that her campaign had been undermined by Jeremy Corbyn’s most recent comments on independence, when he said he would be willing to open discussions with the Scottish Government.
She said: “Nearly 1000 people turned up in Glasgow to see Jeremy Corbyn because of his anti-austerity message so I think that’s a huge addition to the Scottish campaign.
“It is very clear that Jeremy Corbyn is opposed to independence and he has said time and time gain that he is opposed to a second referendum.
“It’s also written into his manifesto that the second referendum is not needed or wanted – because it would lead to £15billion of extra cuts. He’s a crusader against Tory austerity, imagine the damage that extra £15bn of additional cuts would do.”
Ms Dugdale pushed back on the suggestion that she had undergone a ‘conversion’ regarding Mr Corbyn, whom she opposed in two successive Labour leadership contests.
She added: “I didn’t need convinced that Jeremy Corbyn is an authentic voice for anti-austerity politics, I’ve always believed that.
“When I go around the country and speak to people who desperately need a Labour Government they absolutely believe in him, and it’s right that some of the most disadvantaged people in society have found someone that they believe can transform their life.”
Responding to the Scottish Labour leader’s comments, an SNP spokesperson said: “Kezia Dugdale’s increasingly desperate attacks would be more convincing if people didn’t remember the woeful record of Labour MPs – and SNP MPs have spoken in more debates and cost less taxpayer money than their predecessors.
“SNP MPs have worked extremely hard since being elected in 2015 - leading the fight against the rape clause and two child cap, standing up for the rights of WASPI campaigners, opposing the callous Tory immigration policies, fighting the cruel Tory sanctions regime, and being the only credible opposition to the extreme-right Tories.
“And while Kezia Dugdale plays petty politics over the RAH, Mhairi Black has worked tirelessly to represent the views of her constituents – and has ensured they could speak directly to the Health Secretary about their concerns.
“Perhaps Kezia Dugdale should check her facts before making such clueless attacks.”