Sir Keir Starmer's message to Scots is carefully crafted. But will it convince voters?

The UK Labour leader will hope his pitch resonates with voters in Scotland

Sir Keir Starmer today sets out his wider vision for Scotland for the first time. Writing in The Scotsman, he brings together his party’s core messages and policy announcements and weaves them into a narrative of hope and change – but with an underlying emphasis on fiscal responsibility.

Times are tough, he says. Bills are rising and people are struggling. The world feels increasingly volatile. “Can you look around your community today and say, with the certainty you deserve, that the future will be better for your children?” he asks.

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In his article, Sir Keir pledges to smash the “class ceiling” that holds working people back. His party will address the root causes of poverty, he says – while also maintaining “a tight grip on the nation’s finances”.

It is a tricky balancing act. He wants to persuade voters that Labour can be trusted with their money. This is an issue that comes up time and time again for the party. Sir Keir makes clear he “prefers a credible plan to a grand, but empty gesture”. In other words, the era of Jeremy Corbyn is over.

The Labour leader outlines his party’s five national missions – sustained growth and higher living standards in every part of Britain; cheaper bills and clean electricity; an NHS fit for the future; safer streets in communities; and more opportunities for children.

Less than a quarter of the clean energy jobs promised by the SNP have materialised, Sir Keir writes. It is a “gargantuan failure”. Elsewhere, he pledges to “fundamentally change the relationship between Scotland, England and our Union”.

Sir Keir argues the world is going through a period of change every bit as big as the post-Second World War reforms or the upheaval of the 1980s. Tough decisions will come “thick and fast”, but there are “clear glimpses” of a new Scotland – one that can be “the beating heart of a new Britain”.

It is a carefully crafted message. It aims to offer hope and optimism, but underpinned by fiscal restraint. It is laser-focused on appealing to voters who want change, but crave stability.

Sir Keir calls his pitch “slightly old-fashioned”, which sounds like self-deprecation, but actually cuts to the heart of the image he wants to project. Some may find it a bit lacking. Talk of smashing the class ceiling is all very well, but there is little here on how that will be achieved.

In Scotland, the SNP is attacking Labour from the left, and revelling in the divisions between the Scottish and UK parties on policies such as the two-child benefit cap.

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Labour insiders insist they are not worried by this. They believe up to 23 seats are in play at the next general election in Scotland, although nobody expects the party to win them all. “If we win 23 seats, I will retire forever,” joked one senior figure. Around ten or 12 seats are “really solid”, they said.

Rutherglen and Hamilton West is exactly the sort of seat Labour needs to win in Scotland, making the coming by-election a key test for the party. Sir Keir will hope his message resonates. If it doesn’t, that will be a worrying sign.



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