Anti-independence campaign “treating Scots like idiots” says former Labour First Minister


  By a Newsnet reporter
Former Labour First Minister Henry McLeish has urged the Labour party to leave the Better Together campaign which he said was now “treating Scots like idiots”.
Mr McLeish claimed the campaign, which is an alliance including Labour, Tories and the Lib Dems was fuelled by a hatred of the SNP and had become over reliant on scare tactics.

Speaking to the Scotsman newspaper, Mr McLeish urged Labour to ditch the Tory led campaign and instead join forces with the Lib Dems in order to set out a positive vision for a future Scotland.

He said: “There are fear and scare stories such as that we’ll have passport controls at the Border and won’t have access to blood transfusion supplies.  Next they’ll be saying there will be seven years of famine in an independent Scotland and that aliens will land here.

“By leaving Better Together, Labour can start to reinforce its identity.”

He added: “The Tories bring nothing to the table, so Labour and progressive Lib Dems have to put forward their own campaign.

“It’s not just the referendum, we have a general election in 2015 and then a Holyrood election in 2016.”

The former Labour First Minister’s comments follow signs of a backlash against what many have claimed is a relentlessly negative campaign by those opposed to independence that is over reliant on painting extreme negative scenarios, which has been dubbed ‘Project Fear’ by Better Together insiders.

Commenting, Stewart Maxwell MSP, a member of the Referendum Bill Committee, said:

“For a former Labour First Minister to say that the No campaign is ‘treating Scots like idiots’ is hugely damaging to the no camp, and a serious blow to the present Labour leadership in Scotland.

“Henry McLeish is an experienced hand and respected figure in Scotland, and his intervention is a vote of no confidence in the No campaign’s Project Fear.

“The Labour leadership should heed his warning, and withdraw from the Westminster-led, Tory-led No campaign.

“The onus is now on Johann Lamont and the leaders of the Labour Party in Scotland to come to the table with their own vision for Scotland, if they have one.

“Decisions affecting Scotland should be made by people 100% elected in Scotland, and this can only be achieved with a Yes vote for an independent Scotland in 2014.”

Speaking later on BBC Radio Scotland Mr McLeish also commented on the current row between Labour and the Unite union in Falkirk and suggested Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont’s silence stemmed from a lack of real autonomy.

“I have argued for some time now that we [Labour] should have far more autonomy in Scotland.” he said “Johann hasn’t really had much opportunity to involve herself because this is very much a Westminster/London party issue and of course she’ll feel frustrated.”

Mr McLeish added: “But unless and until we can have a better relationship between Labour in Scotland and Labour UK we’ll continue to have this apparent anomaly where the leader of a party in Scotland cannot intervene.”

Mr McLeish called for Ed Miliband to “go further” than the trade-union reform currently being considered and bring “significant change” to the relationship between UK Labour and Scottish Labour, warning that the party faced an identity crisis that could harm them in future elections.


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