SCOTTISH Labour have distanced themselves from Keir Starmer’s claim there are “too many people from overseas” working in the NHS.

It comes after Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar was challenged to stop “hiding from his party's increasingly right-wing hostile immigration policy” by the SNP.

UK Labour leader Starmer had told BBC Scotland over the weekend: "We don't want open borders. Freedom of movement has gone and it's not coming back. So that means fair rules, firm rules, a points-based system.”

READ MORE: Ex-Labour MP slams Keir Starmer for 'patronising' Scots with 'Tory language'

He added: “We’re recruiting too many people from overseas into, for example, the health service.”

Starmer’s comments were read as a betrayal of promises he made during his bid to lead the UK Labour party.

As part of his leadership campaign the MP made “ten pledges” – now infamous due to the number he has broken. In one of these pledges, Starmer said he would “defend free movement” and aim for an immigration system based on “compassion and dignity”.

Pointing to this campaign promise, the SNP said that Starmer’s anti-immigration rhetoric about NHS workers was “contemptible as well as hypocritical”.

The National: Kaukab Stewart is the SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin

SNP MSP Kaukab Stewart (above) said: "Brexit doesn’t work and the public are talking about it more and more whilst Keir Starmer still carries on trying to appeal to right-wing opinion. Labour has abandoned all principles, promises, and common sense to pander to the right-wing Tory voters.

"Whilst Keir Starmer may not care about what is wanted and needed in Scotland, Anas Sarwar's shameful silence on the issue is not good enough and he cannot continue to hide from his party's increasingly right-wing hostile immigration policy any longer.

"The kind of base Tory rhetoric that Labour is throwing about is not only insulting but it is deeply unhelpful.

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“From our NHS and social care sector to our farming and hospitality industries, people coming to live and work in Scotland are a huge asset and should be welcomed with open arms.”

Distancing themselves from Starmer’s comments, Scottish Labour suggested to The National that they sympathised with this sentiment from Stewart.

Jackie Baillie – the Scottish party’s deputy leader and health spokesperson – said: “From the foundation of the NHS, immigrants have made an immense contribution to the running of the service.

“There will always be a place for those who wish to come to the UK to work in our NHS.”

The National: Jackie Baillie sat in the Scottish Parliament chamber

Baillie (above) further argued that inward migration could not be used “to make up for over a decade of failure in training and recruiting NHS staff here in Scotland”.

“The only way we can fix the deadly staffing crisis in our NHS is with a proper workforce plan to deliver the medical professionals we need,” the Dumbarton MSP added.

Baillie’s highlighting of a staffing crisis in the NHS reflects comments made by Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health secretary at Westminster.

Challenged about Starmer’s “too many people from overseas in the NHS” claim on LBC, Streeting said it had been “right”.

He went on: "We've got a problem in this country where we have a big staffing crisis at the heart of the NHS – it is the central issue in terms of the challenge that the NHS faces. That's why Labour's put forward a plan for the biggest expansion of NHS staff in history.

"And because the government have failed to recruit homegrown talent, they are forced to over-rely on staff from overseas."

SNP MSP Stewart said that Labour and the Tories were in “absolute lockstep with each other as they continue to ignore Scotland's needs on every serious challenge facing us right now”.

She added: “Independence is the only way to make sure that the needs of people across Scotland are put first so we can build a better future for everyone."