Grangemouth pledge

Starmer offers ‘reset’ in meeting with Swinney

Sir Keir Starmer met John Swinney at Bute House but entered and left via the back door

Sir Keir Starmer has promised to save the Grangemouth refinery as part of a new attempt to work more closely with the Scottish Government.

The new Prime Minister was in Scotland on Sunday to meet First Minister John Swinney and promised a more co-operative working relationship.

He said which he would be stepping up action to save the Grangemouth facility which employs 1,300 people but is threatened with closure or significant downsizing as it is repurposed.

“We will start work more immediately about Grangemouth, which is obviously a source of great concern to me in terms of what steps we can now take to preserve jobs and secure [the site’s] future,” said Sir Keir. “I won’t go into the details but it is a real priority for me.”

After meeting party members, but excluding a number of journalists from a presentation in central Edinburgh, he arrived and left Bute House in Edinburgh via the back door after his visit was disrupted by a noisy pro-Palestine protest.

He also snubbed the media waiting several hours outside the First Minister’s official residence, prompting a cat and mouse chase by photographers relocating to the rear of the building in an attempt to get an image denied when he did not appear for the traditional handshake on the steps of Bute House.

He is said to have offered no new powers to Holyrood but said he wants to “reset” the dialogue between Westminster and the four nations of the UK, a commitment welcomed by Mr Swinney who has claimed that relations with the Tory government had become “appalling”.

Mr Swinney is looking for greater “respect” for Scotland’s role in a four-nation UK rather than taking orders from London. Specifically, he wants greater help with budgets, including an easing of the austerity agenda to allow for more spending on the NHS, the battle against poverty and the need to build more homes.

Mr Swinney’s power has been trimmed by the collapse in the SNP’s domination of Scotland, losing 39 seats last Thursday to leave the party with just nine MPs while Labour has risen from one to 37.

A Palestine supporter outside Bute House where there was no sign of Sir Keir Starmer (pic: Terry Murden)

Ahead of Sir Keir’s tour of all four nations, the Prime Minister said: “People across the United Kingdom are bound by shared beliefs. Fundamental values of respect, service and community which define us as a great nation.

“That begins today with an immediate reset of my government’s approach to working with the first and deputy first ministers, because meaningful co-operation centred on respect will be key to delivering change across our United Kingdom.”

Mr Swinney added: “I welcome the prime minister’s commitment to forge a positive relationship between our governments and for our part, the Scottish government is committed to working constructively with the UK government to build a better Scotland.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said there were no plans for a separate Scottish immigration system and that there would continue to be one UK Border Agency.

He added: “But if you have two governments willing to work together, you can find distinct solutions for Scotland.”

He referred to the Fresh Talent initiative, introduced by Jack McConnell as Labour’s First Minister 20 years ago. The scheme encouraged overseas graduates from Scottish universities to stay on working in Scotland.

Former Cabinet minister Douglas Alexander, who was elected to Lothian East, has been appointed business minister.

Douglas-Alexander-new
Back in government: Douglas Alexander (pic: Terry Murden)

Mr Alexander was the MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South from 1997 until he was defeated in 2015 by the SNP’s Mhairi Black who has left the Commons.

A former transport secretary and international development secretary., he joins former home secretary Jacqui Smith from the the Blair and Brown era to join Sir Keir’s top team.

The Lothian East constituency was previously represented by Kenny MacAskill, who was elected for the SNP in 2019 but defected to the Alba party in 2021. He did not stand for re-election.

Since losing his seat Mr Alexander has pursued a career in academia – working as a visiting professor at New York University and King’s College London.



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