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Scottish Labour slams ‘ludicrous’ idea to send people smugglers to Scotland

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has condemned an influential Labour think-tank director who suggested that people-smuggling gangs should be “shipped” to Scotland.

Josh Simons, director of the Labour Together group, was widely criticised for remarks he made while discussing alternatives to Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda deportation plan.

The think-tank chief said the Conservative Government should concentrate on detaining the traffickers instead of sending migrants to the Central African country.

“Why don’t you send the smuggler gangs and put them on the barge that has been set aside for asylum seekers,” he told LBC Radio on Monday evening. “Ship the barge up to the north of Scotland for all I care. Who cares?”

The Scottish Labour leader called Mr Simons’ idea “stupid” and dismissed the think-tank director as a “fringe” figure for the party.

However, SNP politicians have pounced on the comments – accusing Mr Simons of denigrating Scotland by suggesting it was a dumping ground for asylum problems.

Lisa-Marie Hughes, a SNP councillor, said on X, formerly Twitter: “Labour thinks Scotland is just the place you park stuff you don’t want in England.”

SNP MP Stewart McDonald also pointed to Labour Together’s links to Sir Keir Starmer’s team, having strongly supported his leadership bid in 2020.

The think-tank’s former director, Morgan McSweeney, joined as Starmer’s chief of staff in 2020 after he won the leadership, before becoming Labour campaigns director in 2022.

Mr Simons has apologised for any “negative insinuation about Scotland”, amid SNP anger and Labour dismay.

In a statement posted on X, he said: “I’m half Scottish, I love the country and it is where much of my family comes from. It was a poorly judged comment made in jest and doesn’t reflect my views, or the views of the Labour Party.”

The Labour Together chief added: “I was seeking to draw attention to the immorality of housing asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution on a barge while smuggler gangs get off free under the Conservatives.”

Distancing himself from the row, Mr Sarwar told the Daily Record: “My first reaction is, ‘Who?’. Every party has elements on the fringes that give them moments of cringe.

“He doesn’t represent the Labour Party’s view. I think people that are making stupid, flippant comments like that are best ignored.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Labour also condemned Mr Simons’ remarks as “ludicrous” and “stupid”.

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