Jeremy Corbyn has unveiled plans to target marginal Scottish seats, claiming they hold the key to propelling him into power and winning the next general election.
The Labour leader said he believed an election could be just months away as Brexit chaos continues to engulf the UK Government.
Scottish votes could be the decisive factor in a quickfire vote, Mr Corbyn said as he started a four-day trip to Scotland. He insists his party is within touching distance of taking critical seats from the SNP
Although Labour took just six seats in last year’s general election, it was considered a surprise success after the party had been reduced to one MP in the vote two years previously and faced predictions of a wipeout.
Mr Corbyn will today meet Labour candidates who have already been selected to fight the next election in Lanarkshire.
“We are within touching distance of a Labour government that works for the many, not the few,” he said. “Make no mistake, we are ready to fight and win the next general election.
“While the Tory government stumbles from one crisis to another, Labour is selecting candidates and laying the groundwork to win the next election – whenever it is called.Labour has the candidates and the policies that will provide the hope, transformation and investment that Scotland needs, and which I believe will help us win the next general election. It will be Scottish voters who kick the Tories out of Downing Street when the time comes – and the whole of the UK will benefit from a Labour government that ends austerity and invests in our people and public services.”
Labour is targeting a number of SNP-held constituencies where swings of less than 1 per cent would be required to win. Of the 64 target seats across the UK it must win to regain power at Westminster, 18 are constituencies held by the SNP, including Glasgow East, Airdrie and Shotts, Lanark and Hamilton East, Motherwell and Wishaw, Inverclyde, and Dunfermline and West Fife.
SNP deputy leader Keith Brown said: “Scotland needs no lectures from Jeremy Corbyn about standing up to Tory austerity. Instead he should apologise for his shameful backing for the Tories’ Brexit, which threatens thousands of Scottish jobs.
“That is why opinion polls show Labour losing ground in Scotland.
“Corbyn arrives in Scotland as he lets his party descend into civil war, while driving the country towards a hard-Brexit cliff edge that is going to hit the living standards of millions of people for decades to come.
“At Holyrood, Richard Leonard’s Labour party voted against more investment in our NHS, against ending the public sector pay cap and against a further £120 million to drive up attainment in our schools.
“In Scotland and in Westminster, Labour are the willing accomplices to the Tories and the masters of empty promises. Scotland deserves better.”
Labour won 27 per cent of the Scottish vote in last year’s Westminster election but recent surveys have put Labour back in third place behind the Tories at about 23 per cent. The SNP remains well in front, with support for the Nationalists sitting at about 40 per cent in most polls.
A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “Jeremy Corbyn can be as ready as he likes, but in Scotland it remains a fight between the Scottish Conservatives and the SNP.
“Labour have proved too weak to stand up to the Nationalists on independence and another election campaign led by Jeremy Corbyn would reinforce that fact.”
Mr Corbyn will be joined today by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, who said: “The Tories’ shambolic handling of Brexit makes another general election a real possibility”