Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will visit Edinburgh and Glasgow alongside the party’s Scottish leader Anas Sarwar to meet and thank frontline healthcare workers on Thursday and Friday.
Speaking ahead of the trip, Starmer echoed Sarwar’s calls for a “national recovery” from the pandemic, with a focus on jobs, the climate, education, communities and NHS recovery.
It will be Starmer’s first visit to Scotland since Sarwar’s election as Scottish Labour leader last month, and the pair will argue that recovering from the impacts of coronavirus must be the priority, rather than another Scottish independence referendum.
Starmer said: “First and foremost, today is about paying tribute to the NHS staff across Scotland who have been on the frontline of this pandemic.
“They have battled Covid heroically, and now they are helping defeat it by rolling out the vaccine.
“Once this virus is beaten, Scotland’s recovery must be the number one priority for its Government. That’s what Anas Sarwar and Scottish Labour are offering in May’s election.
“Scottish Labour, under Anas’s leadership, is the only party serious about tackling the injustices which have been brutally exposed by Covid.
“Whether it’s education, the economy, or Scotland’s NHS, a vote for Scottish Labour in May is a vote to secure Scotland’s recovery.”
When he launched the party’s campaign for the elections being held in May, including the Holyrood election, Starmer said the SNP were “too busy fighting among themselves to fight for the Scottish people”.
“Scotland now has the lowest life expectancy in Western Europe and the highest number of drug deaths,” he said.
“It’s a record of shame and yet the SNP’s only priority is another divisive referendum.”
Speaking ahead of the visit, Sarwar said: “At this election we will be prioritising unity over division.
“After everything we have been through across the entire UK, we can’t return to the old arguments.
“Over the past year, our NHS staff in every nation and region of the UK have worked so hard under intense pressure.
“But our thanks is not enough. We need a relentless focus on a national recovery plan which prioritises our NHS, so that we never again have to choose between treating a virus or treating cancer.”
Responding to claims of SNP infighting, the party’s depute leader, Keith Brown, said: “A vote for Labour is a vote to let Boris Johnson decide Scotland’s future.
“They’ve made it clear that anyone who supports the right of the Scottish people to choose our own future is not welcome in the party.
“By threatening to block Scotland’s democratic right to hold an independence referendum, Labour are demonstrating the same old arrogant and ignorant approach that has alienated their traditional supporters and led to voters abandoning them in droves.”