The SNP is forecasting it will win seats back from Labour in next month’s general election as a senior figure claimed support for Jeremy Corbyn’s party is “falling off like snow off a dyke”.
Humza Yousaf, the Scottish justice secretary, predicted his party would do a “lot better” than it did in 2017 when 35 SNP MPs were elected.
He made the claim after Mr Corbyn spent two days campaigning in Scotland, during which he was repeatedly forced to clarify his stance on whether Labour would permit a second independence referendum.
The UK Labour leader initially said such a vote would not be permitted in the first five-year parliamentary term of a Labour government before changing this to say it would not take place in the “early years” of such an administration.
He then finally said indyref2 would “certainly not” take place in the first two years of his premiership. Mr Yousaf said: “Labour’s support that they had in 2017 is falling off like snow off a dyke.
“I’m very confident we are going to do a lot better.”
Speaking as he campaigned in Glasgow North East, which Labour’s Paul Sweeney won in 2017, Mr Yousaf said the SNP were “quite confident” of seizing the seat on 12 December.
However, Mr Sweeney said voters in the constituency were “flocking to Labour” and he was “confident” of winning the seat again. He said: “When Labour won this seat in 2017, we did so against the odds.
“We don’t take this seat for granted, but despite the 2017 result the SNP do. Mr Yousaf’s bluster simply does not correspond to the response we are getting in the community. Old Labour voters, SNP voters, non-voters, all are flocking to Labour.”
Mr Yousaf also demanded that whoever forms the next UK government repays the VAT charges that police and fire services in Scotland had to pay for years after the SNP merged them into national bodies.
The justice secretary said pressure from the SNP at Westminster meant Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service no longer have to pay VAT and some payments have been returned.
But he said five years worth of payments, amounting to £175 million, should also be returned, as he accused Westminster of “dipping their hands into the pockets of our emergency services”.