Let’s defeat the Tories for good: First Minister Humza Yousaf launches the SNP campaign

Good morning everyone and thank you Stephen – can I say that I am one of many Scots who enjoys watching you run rings round Rishi Sunak every week at Westminster.

Let me also thank Hannah for her inspirational introduction – you remind us all just what is at stake for your generation in this election.

Before I talk about the General Election, can I start by addressing events overnight.

The UK does not have a good track record when it comes to military intervention in the Middle East.

That is why The House of Commons should have been recalled today, ahead of any military action being taken to allow MPs to debate and scrutinise the UK Government’s plans for military action.

If we have learnt anything from the past, is that any decision to instigate military action should be evidence based, and we should be transparent with the people of Scotland and the UK about the reasons for military intervention.

Our MPs, those in this room, ably led by Stephen, have been at the forefront of calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Today, we reiterate that call, and demand that all parties in this conflict agree to an immediate ceasefire. Too many innocent children have been killed already, it is time for the inhumanity to end.

Let me move on to today, friends, it is great to be here with you today – looking ahead to what will be a very, very important year for Scotland.

I’m not just talking about Euro 2024 – although I’ve no doubt that Steve Clarke and our fantastic men’s team will make us all proud.

They’ll show everybody exactly what Scotland can offer when we are represented at the top table of Europe!

Today I want to talk to you about another big moment for Scotland.

By the time we get to the Euros in June, we may be just coming out of an election campaign.

Or, if you’re to believe Rishi Sunak’s “working assumption”, we will be heading into one.

Either way, this election represents a huge opportunity for Scotland.

Today I want to tell you how I think we – together – can get the best outcome for the country.

Let’s be absolutely clear at the outset.

Rishi Sunak is finished as PM. The Tories are done.

And thank goodness.

The damage they have caused to Scotland’s people is unforgivable.

And this year we can rid ourselves of a Tory Government that Scotland did not vote for.

The SNP is by far the best-placed party to do that.

In every Tory-held seat north of the border, we are the party in second place.

And today I am setting an ambition for the SNP, to not only win the General Election but to wipe the Tories from Scotland’s electoral map by winning all six of those Tory seats.

That is a big ask, but I don’t believe you go into elections unless you are willing to be ambitious.

It’s also the case that in more than half of the SNP-held seats, it is the Tories who are in second place.

So to people right across the country, our message will be very clear.

Vote SNP for a Scotland free from Tory MPs.


It’s very clear now that Keir Starmer is going to be the next Prime Minister – and I’ll have more to say on that in a moment.

But history has shown us that the only certainty of a Labour government is that it will be followed by another Tory government.

Scotland needs more than just a brief respite from the damage of Tory rule.

Especially when that brief respite seems to offer so much of the same.

When we vote this year for a Tory-free Scotland, let us remember the moment.

And let us resolve that Rishi Sunak will be the last ever Conservative Prime Minister imposed on Scotland.

The last few years have been a hard lesson about what happens when others choose your future for you.

We didn’t vote for this Tory government.

We didn’t vote for austerity and cuts.

We didn’t vote for Brexit.

We didn’t vote to leave the world’s largest trading bloc.

We didn’t vote for the mini-budget.

We didn’t vote for the constant attacks on social security.

And we didn’t vote for the hostile environment on immigration.

Yet every single one of these disastrous decisions has weakened Scotland’s economy, damaged our public services and led to the cost of living going through the roof.

That is why we need to work harder than ever before to ensure that Scotland regains her independence.

So that in the future, every decision about Scotland is made by the people who live here.

Friends, the UK is heading down the wrong path – of that, there can be no doubt.

What is worse is that an unhealthy cosy Westminster consensus has developed, amongst UK-based parties, over the last few years.

One which meekly accepts a Westminster-economic system that has failed so many, and caused so much suffering, and refuses to acknowledge that a better future is possible.

And where is that Westminster consensus leading us?

It leads to Labour and Lib Dem politicians, who once warned Brexit would be a disaster, now rolling in behind it – despite the evidence that it has been a complete unmitigated disaster.

It leads to a Labour Chancellor-in-waiting saying she will maintain Tory spending plans – just at the moment the country is crying out for investment in our public services.

It leads to a Labour Health Secretary-in-waiting promising he will “hold the door wide open” to private sector involvement in the NHS.

It leads to a Labour Leader saying that he will keep abhorrent Tory policies like the rape clause, and instead apply them – in his words – “more fairly”.

And friends, it leads to the grotesque image of Labour frontbenchers losing their jobs after they dare to support striking workers on a picket line, or when they back SNP calls for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East.

People in Scotland deserve better.

Time after time, when people are looking for leadership, Labour under Keir Starmer has been posted missing.

To paraphrase something Harold Wilson once said, the Labour Party is in danger of becoming an amoral crusade.

It is only SNP MPs who are willing to break that cosy Westminster consensus and speak out for what is right and to ensure Scotland’s voice is heard.

It is Stephen Flynn who, every week, holds the Prime Minister to account on the real issues of the day.

It was Joanna Cherry who led the charge against Boris Johnson’s disgraceful – and unlawful – attempts to shut down parliament.

It was Alison Thewliss who forensically and relentlessly campaigned against the cuts to child benefits and the abhorrent rape clause.

It is our own Marion Fellows who for years has tirelessly pursued the UK Government to deliver justice for sub-postmasters caught up in the Horizon post office scandal.

It is SNP MPs who have repeatedly demanded real action to tackle the cost of living.

It is SNP MPs who have demanded bold and ambitious action to tackle the climate emergency while both the Tories and Labour turn their backs on this most pressing of issues.

And friends, it was the SNP who have had the courage and the moral clarity to demand an immediate ceasefire to stop the ongoing bloodshed in Gaza.

On these, and on so many other issues, it is the SNP who have spoken out for what is right and spoken up for Scotland.


Because that is who we are, these are our values, I believe they are Scotland’s values.

Our core belief is that decisions about Scotland should be taken by the people of Scotland.

For Labour and the Tories it is Westminster that should have the final say.

And that is the fundamental choice before the people of Scotland.

Elect a Labour MP who will stand up for Keir Starmer and Westminster.

Or elect an SNP MP who will stand up for Scotland and ensure we are not ignored.


I don’t pretend that the SNP has achieved everything that we have set out to achieve.

But I am proud of what we have delivered for the people of Scotland in the face of the most extraordinary headwinds.

We believe in a social contract with the people – one where, yes, people who can afford it, like the top 5% of earners, are asked to pay a bit more income tax, but as a result, everybody gets more back.

When you get out there and campaign, you realise just how many people have benefited from policies introduced by the SNP.

People that may not have the Twitter followers or the media contacts for their stories to be heard

But do you know what? People whose stories and experiences are just as important as everyone else’s.

The 90,000 kids lifted out of poverty, and having their life chances improved, thanks to measures like the game-changing Scottish Child Payment.

Or the tens of thousands of young people attending some of the world’s finest universities right on their doorstep without paying a penny.

Or the thousands of parents, particularly women, who can go out to work every day thanks to the SNP’s transformational investment in free childcare provision.

Or the millions of people receiving prescription medication for free.

Or the majority of people in Scotland paying less income tax than they would elsewhere in these islands, thanks to the SNP’s more progressive approach.

Or indeed the council tax payers who are paying hundreds of pounds a year less in council tax than they would be in Tory-run England or Labour-run Wales.

Every one of these investments is, in its own way, is changing lives for the better.

A down-payment on Scotland’s future.

Investments in our people which ultimately make our society and our economy stronger.

But continued Westminster austerity – whether Tory or Labour – puts vital social policies like these under threat.

And that is the real tragedy of Keir Starmer’s leadership, or lack of it, in particular.

With Labour leading the Tories by 20-25 points in the polls, this would be the time for Keir Starmer to be bold, to be radical.

Instead, he spends his time attempting to neutralise Tory attacks by imitating their policies.

As Prime Minister he is wedded to the same failed Brexit-based economy that is causing such damage to our businesses and people.

And that is why every SNP MP elected will fight tooth and nail against Westminster austerity, regardless of whether that is Tory or Labour austerity.

Friends, Keir Starmer doesn’t need Scotland to win the election, he does need Scotland and SNP MPs to keep him honest.

So my offer to Keir Starmer is that where we can, we will of course work constructively with a Labour government to introduce measures for a fairer country.

Let me give you some examples:

We’ll do everything we can to prevent any further Labour backsliding on green investment.

We’ll fight to protect the NHS from creeping privatisation at Westminster.

We’ll work with Labour if they want to end the two-child cap, to lift children out of poverty.

And if they’re open to it, we’ll share our experience of how to introduce a UK-wide equivalent of the Scottish Child Payment.

Although it’s not for us to write the manifestos of others, I believe that every party standing in this election should make a commitment to introducing a child payment, as we have done.

This has been transformational in our efforts to tackle the scourge of child poverty – and we stand ready to share our experiences with anyone else looking to introduce such a measure.

But friends,

Our ambitions for Scotland go higher than trying to protect Scotland from Westminster.

Page one, line one of the SNP election manifesto will say this: “Vote SNP for Scotland to become an independent country”


Because of that core belief that decisions about Scotland should be taken in Scotland.

Because Westminster doesn’t work for Scotland.

And so that any elected Scottish Government has the full range of powers needed to build the kind of country we know is possible.

On the issue that concerns people the most – their standard of living – the need for independence has never been more urgent.

For far too many people the UK economy has failed.

Wages have stagnated.

Inequality is high.

Investment is low.

And both Labour and the Tories are committed to a Brexit-based economy no matter the cost to Scotland.

So on this most important of concerns – the economy and living standards – both Labour and the Tories are offering more of the same.

Economic decline is still decline, even if it is managed slightly more competently.

For Scotland, it doesn’t have to be that way.

We have so many advantages.

Massive renewable energy resources.

World-leading universities.

Brilliant industries such as food and drink, advanced manufacturing, tourism and a wonderful creative sector.

And when we look at independent countries in Europe that are like Scotland what do we see?

Countries that are fairer than the UK.

Wealthier than the UK

More productive than the UK.

So with all our advantages and talents – why not Scotland?


Given Westminster’s economic failure, we have a duty to set out the case for a better future for Scotland.

This election represents an important moment for Scotland’s independence movement.

Keir Starmer will use every vote for Labour in Scotland as a vote against independence.

He will argue that every vote for Labour is a vote of confidence in Westminster control.

So if you believe decisions about Scotland should be taken in Scotland – if you believe in independence – I ask you to vote SNP.

If you want to see an independent Scotland, you have to get out and vote for it.

It is up to us in the SNP to win your support for that cause – and that is what we intend to do.


This is going to be an exciting campaign – and I am looking forward to it.

Over the next few months, I know that you will join me in working harder than ever before to win the support of people in every community in the country.

I am proud to lead a party with a record of delivery – and the vision for a more prosperous future for Scotland.

I lead a Government and a Party that stands up for what we believe in, we are guided by our values, by our compassion and by our unwavering commitment to always put the interests of the people of Scotland first and foremost.

If we do that, then the people will continue to place their trust in us.

Let us get out there and show that there is a better alternative to the misery of broken, Brexit Britain.

There is hope, as an independent nation, taking her rightful place in the European Union.

So let us get out there and win this election – and make Scotland a better nation.