Labour facing constitutional split as pro-independence wing emerges


By a Newsnet reporter

The Scottish Labour party is today facing the prospect of a split within its ranks over its stance on the independence debate.

A new website, Labour for Independence, has been created by party member Allan Grogan who has become disillusioned over the party’s attitude to independence.  Mr Grogan says that there are others within the party who share his views.

Mr Grogan’s Facebook page has been visited by 24,000 people in its first week and has 334 indications of approval from visitors – more than Scottish Labour’s own site.

The Labour party member, who has been an active supporter of Labour for many years, said he had spoken to others within the party in Scotland and was convinced there was a genuine appetite for independence, claiming that many were becoming disillusioned with the party overall.

“There are many in the Labour party who seek and support an independent Scotland.

“There are also many supporters who once were Labour but have lost faith or moved political ideology because of a Labour party more concerned with middle England than their core bases, especially Scotland.”

The move by Mr Grogan has been welcomed by the head of pro-independence campaign group Yes Scotland, Blair Jenkins.  

Mr Jenkins said: “When I accepted the position of chief executive of Yes Scotland, I made it clear that I wanted the campaign to provide the kind of high-quality information that the people of Scotland will need in order to make the right choice.

“To be able to do that, I am determined to build a strong team and organisation and I am confident that the people who fill the four senior positions being advertised will be of the highest calibre and expertise.”

He added: “We know there are many voters, of all political persuasions and none, who support an independent Scotland.  In fact, the principle of independence for Scotland is above and beyond any party political interests.

“It’s the people’s referendum.  Whether people support Labour, the Conservatives, the SNP, the Greens or any other party, there are many who are attracted by the possibilities that independence offers to build and shape the kind of society that is in line with their core beliefs and values.”

He continued: “Another major plus side of independence is the prospect of the best of the talent from the various parties serving at Holyrood rather than Westminster.”

Responding to the apparent split, Labour MSP Richard Baker said: “Labour members have the right to bring policy suggestions to conference where they can be debated.  However, as we are focused on social justice in the widest sense, we believe that we all achieve more together than apart.

“I also note that the website has lots of support from SNP backers, but lacks any real support from within our own ranks.  Scottish Labour will fight to keep Britain together because we believe that we are stronger together.”

Commenting on Mr Grogan’s move, SNP’s Christina McKelvie MSP said:

“People of all parties and none are warming to the idea of an independent Scotland.

“It is only fair and democratic that grassroots Labour members should be given the opportunity to discuss the merits of voting Yes to an independent Scotland in 2014.

“Johann Lamont and the Labour Party in Scotland leadership’s sponsored silence on Trident, abandonment of free higher education and anti-independence pact with Tories is leaving them looking very lost indeed. It is little wonder the people of Scotland are looking elsewhere for politicians to reflect their views and values.”

The signs of support for independence amongst Labour party members in Scotland follows analysis of a recent poll that shows the SNP with strong support amongst all sections of Scottish society.

The poll, carried out by Panelbase on behalf of the Sunday Times and Real Radio Scotland, showed the SNP’s lead is particularly strong amongst the groups characterised as C2 and DE by the pollsters, comprising skilled and unskilled manual workers, and the lowest earners.  These groups were traditionally regarded as forming the core of Labour’s vote in Scotland.

The SNP also maintains a strong lead over its rivals when the results are broken down according to age, gender, and type of home.  Such strong leads for a single party across every polling category is thought to be unprecedented.