Arguments over who will head the Unionist’s anti-independence campaign have surfaced after Conservatives insisted PM David Cameron will play a leading role.
Unionist parties have become embroiled in a squabble after the Herald newspaper claimed a Conservative Minister told them that Mr Cameron will lead the Unionist coalition as they bid to prevent Scottish independence.
According to the paper a senior Cabinet Minister has said: “He is the Prime Minister. People would expect him to lead it,”
Senior Labour figures have rubbished the suggestion with MP Ian Davidson claiming that it shows a misunderstanding of Scottish politics.
Labour MP Jim Murphy and new Scottish party head Johann Lamont have both insisted that they will not campaign alongside the Tory PM in the campaign.
However divisions have emerged within the ranks of the Labour party with the Herald reporting failed Scottish leadership candidate Tom Harris as being less hostile to the suggestion of Mr Cameron having involvement.
Thomas Docherty, the Labour MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, is also said to be less critical of the Tory leader playing a role, the Herald quoting him as saying: “If we say the PM can’t play a role in the campaign then we fall into the SNP trap.”
It is claimed that some Labour party figures are suggesting that there will be more than one campaign against Scottish independence. The Herald reports that the recently elected deputy leader of Labour in Scotland, Anas Sarwar MP, will be unveiled early in the New Year as Labour’s anti-independence co-ordinator.
The fallout follows the revelations this week that senior Scottish Labour figures held secret talks with Conservative and Lib Dem Ministers at the Scotland Office after the SNP won May’s Scottish election.
Responding to news of the Unionist disagreements over campaign strategy, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said it showed the level of “disharmony” that currently existed within the anti-independence camp.
Mr Gibson, MSP for Cunninghame North, said:
“David Cameron is welcome to try and run the anti-independence campaign, it will be interesting to see just how well received he is by the people of Scotland.
“Labour can’t decide if they should cooperate with Tories or not and they can’t even agree amongst themselves – how can they be expected to give a consistent and clear message to the people of Scotland?
“There was reports last week the two main unionist parties were having secret meetings to stop Scotland moving forward, desperately trying to find a common cause to bind them and sell the out of date idea that the status quo is the best thing for Scotland.
“But their private meetings have resulted in public disarray – only the SNP match the ambitions of the Scottish people and we will deliver the referendum on Independence.”
Meanwhile a former Labour MP has admitted that, if given the opportunity, he would vote for the SNP.
David Marquand, who left the Labour party in disgust over the Tony Blair’s determination for the UK to be involved in the war in Iraq has said that if he lived in Scotland he’d back the SNP.
Mr Marquand, the political writer and historian from Oxford University, was speaking on Newsweek on BBC Radio Scotland, and said:
“I think I would vote SNP if I was in Scotland. I can entirely understand why a Scot would think it is a sensible thing to vote SNP in Scotland.”
He also explained how the constitutional future of the four countries that make up the UK has given Scots and Welsh a wider understanding over their identity, which was recently demonstrated following Prime Minister Cameron’s controversial veto on Europe.
“The forces that have encouraged devolution in Scotland – and maybe more than devolution – have largely been a reaction to the way that England has behaved.
“This has been brought out very clearly by the reaction of First Minister and Welsh First Minister following David Cameron’s veto, saying that it is shocking that he did not consult either the Welsh or the Scottish Governments, which seems to me to be totally correct.
“As I understand in Scotland and Wales for centuries people have thought of themselves as Scottish or Welsh and British, and the idea that you can have a third identity is not so shocking in Scotland or Wales, but it does seem to be shocking and dreadful to people in England.”
Sandra White, SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, welcomed the comments from Mr Marquand and said:
“These comments from a former Labour MP and respected academic are further evidence of the realisation that The SNP are the party for all of Scotland’s people and are committed to moving Scotland forward.
“Opposition parties in Scotland lack identity and ideas but the SNP have governed responsibly and laid out a clear plan for Scotland which matches the ambitions and aspirations of the people who live here.
“I also note Mr Marquand’s agreement that David Cameron was fundamentally wrong to act so dismissively of our friends in Europe without speaking to either Scottish or Welsh Governments.”