What does Keir Starmer as Prime Minister mean for Scotland?

The UK's new leader has promised Scotland change - but what does that look like?

Keir Starmer has promised Scotland change. A changed Labour Party, a changed government and a change in the way the country is run.

The word “change” was plastered across both the UK and Scottish Labour manifestos more than 200 times.

And looking forward, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he wants that change to continue into Holyrood in 2026.

But what does change mean in Scotland and what can we expect from the new PM?

Independence

Keir Starmer has ruled out an independence referendum.Getty Images

Starmer has ruled out any independence referendums or negotiations with the Scottish Government on leaving the union.

The Prime Minister said there are “clearly differences of opinion” with First Minister John Swinney on the constitution.

Asked if there should, as Swinney argues, be a referendum within the next five years, Starmer said: “I’ve been clear about the priorities of my government and they’re about delivering for Scotland.

“We now have 37 Labour MPs in government and I want them to start straight away on delivering.”

So technically, Starmer’s position is the same as the Tory-led UK Government but he has signalled a change in tone.

That change was also seen in Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar who reached out to independence-supporting Scots ahead of the election.

Relationship with the Scottish Government

Keir Starmer met John Swinney on Sunday following his election victory.Number 10

As part of that change, Starmer travelled to Scotland to meet the First Minister.

Ahead of the trip, he was keen to stress that he wanted to improve the relationship between Westminster and Holyrood, which has come under considerable strain in recent years.

He said there would be an “immediate reset” in relations with the Scottish Government that would focus on respect and working together.

He said he wants to “turn disagreement into co-operation” with the SNP administration.

“I am absolutely clear that during the campaign I made a commitment that my Labour Government would deliver for Scotland,” the PM said.

“That’s why I’m back here making good on that commitment, that promise, and starting the work of change across Scotland with the First Minister and deputy First Minister (Kate Forbes).”

Speaking to STV News, Swinney said the relationship with the previous UK Government was “very poor” and described ministers as “really difficult”.

But he said that he too is committed to improving his relationship with the new leader.

Economy and jobs

Keir Starmer said he wanted to find a solution to the Grangemouth closure but did not make any commitments.Christopher Furlong via Getty Images

One of Labour’s key pledges of the General Election was a new state-owned energy company, GB Energy, that would be headquartered in Scotland.

Starmer said that would bring jobs to the nation while accelerating the drive to net-zero and lowering energy bills.

He said he would also work with Swinney to find a solution to the Grangemouth oil refinery, which faces closure and the loss of hundreds of jobs.

As part of its manifesto commitment, Labour said it will ban zero-hours contracts, and fire-and-rehire and would increase the minimum wage across the UK.

Scotland’s role in the UK Government

Keir Starmer has appointed a number of Scots to his top team.iStock

Labour now has 37 MPs in Scotland. Compare that to the Tories which had six MPs last time.

“We have this team to be part of a government, sitting on the government benches, all working to deliver for Scotland,” Starmer said.

“This team here, the whole of the Labour Party in government and myself, delivering for Scotland.”

Starmer has already appointed Ian Murray as Scottish secretary while Douglas Alexander became business minister at the weekend.

And he pledged to put Scotland “back at the beating heart” of everything the UK Government does.

The PM said he was offering the Scottish Government a “genuine seat at the table” and that they could deliver change for a generation through “meaningful co-operation”.

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