THE idea that Scottish Labour is just a branch office of the UK party is a “hackneyed line” without a basis in truth, a top member of Keir Starmer’s frontbench team has claimed.

Wes Streeting, UK Labour’s shadow health secretary, joked he would be unable to tell Jackie Baillie what to do – and called her “one of the best, sharpest political minds and operators in all of these islands”.

The deputy leader of Scottish Labour, Baillie was recently made a dame on the King’s birthday list, in part for having put “the good of the country first”.

At Holyrood, the Dumbarton MSP also serves as Scottish Labour’s spokesperson on the NHS, health, and social care, the same brief Streeting holds at a UK level.

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Streeting was also asked about differences between UK Labour and Scottish Labour policy – such as support for the Tories’ two-child cap on benefits and gender reform – during an appearance at an Edinburgh Fringe event opposite LBC host Iain Dale.

The Labour MP downplayed any divide, saying: "If you believe in devolution, and if you’re devolving a set of policies and issues and questions, you have to accept that people may well use those freedoms to make different choices.

“I would say, in the case of UK Labour and Scottish Labour, they’re not wildly different choices. There are subtle and important differences but that’s absolutely fine.

“I laugh nowadays when the SNP still try and labour this hackneyed line that Scottish Labour is a branch office. The idea that I would be ringing up my counterpart in the Scottish parliament Jackie Baillie and telling her what to do is hilarious.

“Frankly, in this power dynamic it’s the other way around. We’re scared of Jackie Baillie.”

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Streeting quipped that if he tried to tell Baillie (above) what to do then she would respond with two words, “and the second would be ‘off’”.

He said that UK and Scottish Labour shared a relationship based on “mutual respect”.

Streeting went on: “I joke, but Jackie Baillie has been doing the job longer than I have and on social care I think she’s a few miles ahead of me at the moment, so actually I find myself on the phone to her asking for advice, sounding her out as one of the people who is, I think, one of the best, sharpest political minds and operators in all of these islands.

“Similarly, when Anas [Sarwar, the Scottish Labour group leader] comes to shadow cabinet as he does periodically, probably once a quarter, it’s to give us our marching orders and tell us what we can do to support what he’s doing here in Scotland.”

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Streeting added: “I think there’s a healthy relationship and a mutually supportive relationship but we don’t all have to sing from the same hymn sheet all the time.”

The shadow health secretary’s comments came after he campaigned in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, with a by-election called in the Westminster constituency after a recall petition saw Margaret Ferrier kicked out as an MP.

Michael Shanks, the Labour candidate, has insisted that he will oppose his own Westminster leaders on issues including the two-child benefits cap if elected.

Late last week, the Electoral Commission said that Scottish Labour was an “optional identity marker” used by the UK Labour party.

It shared a register which shows Scottish Labour is based at the Labour Party Northern Regional Offices in Newcastle and listed as an “accounting unit” of the UK party.