ANAS Sarwar has been asked to urgently clarify his party's position on nationalisation after conflicting statements made by his English colleagues have cast confusion over Labour’s stance on the issue.

UK Labour leader Keir Starmer indicated a retreat from a pledge he made when he was running for the party’s leadership in 2019 to support “common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water”.

On Monday shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the policy was not compatible with the party’s new “fiscal rules” to control public spending and Labour will not go into the next election promising to take private rail, energy or water companies back under public ownership. 

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Challenged on Reeves comments, Starmer told reporters in Liverpool: “I take a pragmatic approach rather than an ideological one, I agree with what Rachel Reeves said this morning.

“Having come through the pandemic, it’s very important we have very, very clear priorities and that’s why we’ve set out fiscal rules already as an opposition.”

He added: “My mission is growth and underpinning that mission is a partnership arrangement with business, where the mission is set by an incoming Labour government and we empower business to work with us in delivering on that mission.”

Starmer then suggested taking railways back into public ownership was not his preferred option, despite shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh telling the rail union Aslef in March that Labour was “totally committed” to the policy.

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The Labour leader said: “I think what some of our mayors and metro mayors are doing with public transport is the right way forward – absolutely focused on keeping the price down and making sure there’s control over where things go, particularly buses…

“I absolutely understand the frustrations of everybody trying to use the rail service”.

Haigh subsequently added to the confusion by restating her view of her party’s position, tweeting: “@UKLabour is committed to public ownership of rail and putting the public back in control of our bus network to drive down prices, improve services and meet net zero”.

This was retweeted by Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, indicating her support of the policy.

The Scottish Greens have now called on Scottish Labour leader Sarwar to clarify his stance on nationalisation.

The party tweeted: "Water and rail are already publicly owned in Scotland, a status that enjoys widespread public support.

The National: Keir Starmer Keir Starmer

"Anas Sarwar needs to urgently clarify whether he'll follow his party leader's instruction and support the privatisation of Scottish Water and ScotRail."

The National have contacted Scottish Labour for comment. 

Reeves earlier said commitments by Labour to nationalise rail, energy or water were part of a manifesto in 2019 that “secured our worst results since 1935” and had been “scrapped”.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Within our fiscal rules, to be spending billions of pounds on nationalising things, that just doesn’t stack up against our fiscal rules.”

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It comes as the Trade Union Congress (TUC) called for public ownership of energy companies.

The federation of trade unions said: “Taking the Big Five energy retail firms into public ownership would cost just £2.85 billion.

“Since June 2021, the UK Government has spent £2.7 billion bailing out 28 energy companies that collapsed.

“It’s time to lift the burden of failed privatisation off families.”

Meanwhile, Starmer used a speech in Liverpool on Monday to say the priority for the next Labour government would be to “reboot” the economy with a focus on “growth, growth, growth”.

One of the key five principles guiding a Labour government to achieve this, Starmer said, is being "distinctly British".