LABOUR leader Keir Starmer has hit back at Nicola Sturgeon’s suggestion his party is a “pale imitation” of the Tories and told her to focus on domestic issues.

Speaking on Global’s News Agents podcast on Friday, the First Minister attacked Starmer over his stance on Brexit, saying it is “inexplicable” to voters north of the Border that the party has ruled out going back into the EU.

The FM told the podcast: “People don’t want a pale imitation of a Tory Government.”

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She added: “You take Brexit, it is inexplicable to people in Scotland that we’ve now got a Labour leader at a time when Brexit is as unpopular as it ever was in Scotland, but increasingly unpopular in the rest of the UK, that won’t even countenance going back into the EU or even the single market and the customs union.

“People are crying out for a genuine alternative to the Tories and instead they’re getting this triangulating, sort of fudge the difference, just be a sort of slightly more palatable version of the Tories from Keir Starmer.”

Responding on LBC, Starmer hit out at the Scottish Government’s record on the health service.

The National: Starmer hit back at Sturgeon's comments on a podcastStarmer hit back at Sturgeon's comments on a podcast (Image: Global)

“Can I firstly gently suggest to Nicola Sturgeon that she might want to roll up her sleeves and concentrate on the health service in Scotland,” he said.

He went on to say the “education system is on its knees”, adding: “I think that Nicola Sturgeon may want to spend a bit of time fixing some of the problems that are actually under her control in Scotland.”

Addressing her points on his stance on the EU, Starmer said: “We’ve left the EU now and there is no case for going back in.”

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He said the exit agreement struck between the UK and the bloc was “a very bad deal”, but added there is “willingness to talk to a serious Labour Party, a serious incoming Labour government” among European leaders.

He said: “Across the EU, they’re not saying, well you’ve got to come back in the EU, you’ve got to be in the single market.

“They want a discussion about how we have a closer trading relationship, how we have a closer security relationship or a closer relationship on research.

“What it requires is trust and good faith in the negotiations. And that’s what’s been missing over the last few years.”

It comes as the FM also accused critics of Scotland’s gender reforms of using the debate to “cloak” their transphobia, racism and misogyny.

She also revealed that she believed there was a concerted effort to remove powers from the Scottish Parliament and she was no longer “100% sure” the Tories wouldn’t try to abolish Holyrood.