Labour in disarray on constitutional debate

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by a Newsnet reporter

The SNP has demanded that the Labour party clarifies its position on the Scottish constitutional debate after several senior figures argued opposing stances.

Although Labour was the party which first put forward the Calman Commission, some figures within the party are now urging they distance themselves from these same proposals, which underpin the Scotland Bill, and instead embrace Devo Max.

Last week Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm published an article on the Labour Hame website in which he said that the party must disavow the Calman Commission as a matter of urgency, and claimed that two senior figures within the party had told him that they would prefer independence to the Scotland Bill.  

Meanwhile Tom Harris MP, who has put his hat into the ring for the leadership of Labour in Scotland but whose nomination failed to gain the support of a single Labour MSP, has told the BBC that he is opposed to Devo Max or enhanced devolution.  

Mr Harris has gone further and suggested the Conservative Lib Dem Westminster government should intervene in order to ensure that there would be no question on enhanced devolution in the referendum.  The Glasgow South MP claimed that voters only gave the SNP a mandate to hold an independence referendum, not to ask the Scottish people about Devo Max.

Now George Foulkes, former MP and MSP and now Labour member of the House of Lords, has used his Twitter account to publish a message stating his support for full fiscal autonomy and likening those within Labour who are opposed to greater devolution as ostriches with their heads stuck in the sand.  

Mr Foulkes’ Twitter message read:  “Labour should now support full fiscal responsibility for Scotland and campaign for this within the UK.  An ostrich cannot see the way forward.”

Linda Fabiani, Convener of the Scotland Bill Committee and MSP for East Kilbride, said:

“Labour are a complete and utter shambles, and split from top to bottom on the issue of Scotland’s future.  With Lord Foulkes joining former First Minister Henry McLeish and current MSP Malcolm Chisholm in calling for Labour to campaign for ‘devo-max’ in the referendum, it is high time they explained what their position actually is, or might be.

“And the Lib Dems are even worse.  Devo-max is supposed to be existing Lib Dem policy – but they don’t seem to want to campaign for their own policy, which renders them ridiculous.

“Labour and the Lib Dems need to understand that the only alternative to campaigning for ‘devo-max’ is for them to stand with the Tories in opposing any more powers for Scotland – a totally disastrous position to adopt in Scottish politics.

“As this debate proceeds, it is becoming ever clearer that Labour and the Lib Dems prefer Tory rule of Scotland from Westminster to the Scottish people governing themselves – no wonder they are running round like headless chickens.”