KEIR Starmer made a direct appeal to SNP and independence supporters to back Labour to remove the Conservatives from power as he attacked both parties on their records in government.

The Labour leader said there was a "clear choice" for voters in Scotland and across the UK on polling day, expected towards the end of next year, as he bid to lure back voters north of the border who had deserted his party in the wake of the referendum in 2014.

He repeated his claim that the road to electoral success "must run through Scotland", adding he wanted to be a "Prime Minister for the UK, not just Prime Minister of the UK".

He was speaking on the final day of the Scottish Labour conference in Edinburgh and as the SNP's leadership contest gets underway following the resignation announcement last Wednesday of Nicola Sturgeon. Polls have suggested Labour is gaining ground on the SNP though the latter party remains dominant.

In his key note address to the conference, Sir Keir launched a fierce attack on the SNP's record in government pointing to issues in the NHS, in education and to the high number of drugs deaths.

He said there was a "bond" between the Conservatives and the SNP over the constitution - and restated his position that Labour would not do any deal with the SNP after a general election.

"But we must accept that many Scots look at Tory Britain and conclude the way out is the way forward," he said.

"And conference – that’s the argument we have to take on now. That’s why today I want to address those who had given up on Labour directly. And, yes, those who had given up on Britain. I know the people of Scotland want change and hope....The sort of hope you can build your future around." 

Sir Keir added: "There will be a clear choice at the next general election between more decline and division with the Tories, or credible change with Labour.   

"Change for Britain that brings with it change for Scotland and your community.  But I also want you to know – my Labour Party understands that this means we have to be in it for the long haul.  

"That the change on the ballot in 2024 must last. [We] Must give more power and resources to Scotland, whoever is in power in Westminster."

Turning to the SNP leadership contest and the Scottish Government's record, he said:

"Whoever ends up in charge of the SNP, it’s not as if they can give the Tories any lectures on political responsibility.   

"Over fifteen years in power and what do they have to show for it?  Honestly - it’s always somebody else’s fault and the reason is simple. They’re not truly invested in Scotland’s success.   

"Anything Scotland achieves within the UK is met with gritted teeth. Seen as a roadblock to the one true goal. And so, they do nothing.  It’s why standards in education are going backwards.

"Why the tragedy of Scottish drug deaths hasn’t been gripped.  Why they haven’t just accepted Tory cuts to local services but piled on the misery.  If it’s not about the constitution – they’re not interested."

He added:  "We could never work with that. So, whatever happens in the coming months, my message is the same: no deal under any circumstances! The phony offers of support can end now.   

"The blame game can end now.  The unspoken political bond between the SNP and the Tories - the shared investment in division - that ends now. "  

Responding to the Labour leader's speech, Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy MSP said: “Keir Starmer is clearly desperate to win over SNP voters, which explains why he’s offering Nationalists more concessions on the constitution in the naïve hope this will satisfy them. 

“Pro-UK voters are right to be alarmed by this, as they know Labour can’t be trusted to stand up to the SNP or for Scotland’s place in the UK.

“Labour are indistinguishable from the SNP on the big issues. They vote with the SNP at Holyrood most of the time, including when Anas Sarwar whipped his MSPs to vote for Nicola Sturgeon’s reckless gender reform legislation.

“This flies in the face of Keir Starmer’s pledge to put ‘country first, party second’, because Scottish Labour blatantly ignored the vast majority of Scots who oppose this flawed and dangerous legislation.

“Pro-UK voters won’t be duped again by Keir Starmer’s claim that Labour will do no deals with the SNP. Labour made the same pledge before last year’s local elections, only for their councillors in Dumfries and Galloway to strike a shabby backroom deal with the Nationalists. 

“It’s little wonder that Nationalist strategists see a Keir Starmer government as their best route to securing another divisive independence referendum, because they fully expect Labour to accept the SNP’s demands.”