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John Swinney will urge people to “vote SNP to put Scotland’s interests first” as he formally launches the party’s general election campaign.

Mr Swinney will tell activists and candidates at a rally in Glasgow later that Westminster decision-making has meant “austerity, Brexit and a cost of living crisis being imposed on Scotland”.

Scotland’s first minister will stress his belief in independence as a way to ensure decisions about Scotland are made in Scotland.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said John Swinney’s “relaunch of a shambolic campaign” proved he was more interested in his party than the people.

The Scottish Conservatives said Mr Swinney had “abandoned any pretence that he is a fresh start” and accused him of making a “desperate defence of the SNP’s dreadful record in government”.

Meanwhile, Scottish Lib Dems leader Alex Cole-Hamilton also criticised the SNP’s continued push for a second independence referendum – insisting voters simply “don’t care”.

Anas Sarwar

Anas Sarwar described the SNP campaign as shambolic

However, Mr Swinney will call on the public to back his party’s indy stance in the 4 July general election and use the vote as a direct way to remove the Conservatives from government.

He is expected to say: “A combination of Westminster cuts and Brexit has reduced the money available for the NHS, other public services and housing.

“Brexit alone has wiped billions from the Scottish economy compared with EU membership. And it’s pushed up food and other household costs.

“Given the UK is moving so badly in the wrong direction I would be failing in my duty if I did not set out what I believe is a better future for Scotland.”

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Following his election as first minister last month, Mr Swinney called for more respect to be shown in Scottish politics.

Looking ahead to the UK-wide general election, he will say that he believes in “the politics of persuasion or, if that’s not possible, respectful disagreement”.

He will tell those at the rally that “in our wonderful, diverse, inspiring country” everyone should have a chance to get on in life.

“It’s why I believe so strongly in eradicating child poverty,” the first minister will say.

“At this election it is those principles that will guide my approach. So I am asking people to vote SNP to remove the Tories from government.

“I’m asking people to vote SNP to put Scotland’s interests first. I’m asking people to vote for a future made in Scotland, for Scotland.”

Mr Swinney will also highlight what the he says the SNP has achieved in government – including free prescriptions, the abolition of university tuition fees, free bus travel for under-22s and the Scottish Child Payment.

‘No-one is talking about independence’ – Alex Cole-Hamilton

Speaking on BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole- Hamilton said his party was not talking about independence during this campaign “because literally no-one on the doorsteps is talking about it – they don’t care”.

He added: “We don’t believe there should be a second referendum – it’s not salient to people right now.

“People want to talk about getting access to a GP at the first time of asking, or NHS dentists in their locality.

“They want to talk about taking the sewage out of our rivers and lifting up Scottish education to where it used to be.”

‘Journey together’

Speaking on the campaign trail in Renfrew, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the SNP had spent the entire campaign so far attacking Labour when the real opportunity was to “get rid of this rotten Tory government”.

He said: “That’s what we’re focused on – getting rid of Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman and the whole, rotten lot of them.

“People across Scotland realise after 14 years of corruption, chaos, lies and sleaze from the Conservative party that this is Scotland’s opportunity to get rid of them. And the only way we do that is if we elect a UK Labour government.”

Mr Sarwar said he was confident previous SNP supporters would switch to Labour on 4 July.

“I don’t care how you voted in the past. I don’t care how you voted in the referendum. I don’t care how you would possibly vote in future referendums.

“What I care about just now is getting rid of this rotten Tory government, so let’s go on this part of the journey together and change our country.”

Craig Hoy

Craig Hoy said the people of Scotland want a government focused on its real priorities

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said voters wanted a government “focused on their real priorities”.

He said: “Thanks to his party and their independence obsession, 840,000 Scots are on an NHS waiting list, schools have tumbled down international comparison tables, we have the lowest numbers of police officers since 2008 and savage cuts to local services.

“All this comes despite Scotland having the largest UK block grants in history and the highest taxes of any part of the UK.

“The future Scots want is with a government focused on their real priorities, which means removing the SNP.

“And in key seats up and down the country, only the Scottish Conservatives can beat the SNP and end their independence obsession.”

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