By Martin Kelly
The Scottish Labour party has launched an attack on pro-independence insiders accusing the group of being a front for the SNP.
Labour for Independence (LFI) was set up by members of the Labour party in Scotland unhappy at the stance the party leadership in Scotland were adopting in relation to independence.
The campaign group, led by Labour member and supporter Allan Grogan, are in favour of independence for Scotland and have held meetings and events across Scotland in an attempt at highlighting what they claim is a “sizeable” number of pro-independence Labour voters in Scotland.
To date the group has been ignored by the Labour party. However following a successful first policy conference held this weekend at the STUC in Glasgow, the Scottish Labour Deputy leader Anas Sarwar broke his silence, calling the campaign group an “SNP front”.
Mr Sarwar claimed that an image showing SNP councillors holding a banner which read “Yes is the future!”, beneath which was a Labour for Independence logo, was proof that the campaign was not driven by Labour party members.
“For prominent MSPs, council leaders and party officials to masquerade as Labour supporters to give a false impression about their campaign is disrespectful to ordinary Scots who want to make a decision on our future based on the facts.
“Labour for Independence appears to be nothing more than a sham and a SNP front.”
However the Labour group immediately hit back insisting they had a duty to correct what they said were “some of the mis-truths which have been peddled about our organisation”
In a statement, Labour for Independence head Allan Grogan said:
“LFI was set up as a social media site by myself. I was born into a Labour family, was a member since the ages of 18 until I left the country at 24. The month I returned to Scotland I rejoined the Labour Party keen to play a more active part in the 2011 Scottish Elections.”
Mr Grogan said that LFI attracted more support and quickly became a ‘boots on the ground’ campaign.
The Labour party member, who has himself been the subject of a smear campaign with attempts to ridicule his pro-wrestling past, added: “We have been very proud to work alongside the great many volunteers of Yes Scotland who represent all parties and no parties. There are many pictures with LFI volunteers campaigning at Yes Scotland events and as such there are many instances in which non-LFI volunteers were pictured around our banner. At no time have we ever claimed these people to be volunteers of LFI.
“If SNP members are handing out our leaflets it is an acknowledgement that the Labour vote is an important one in this referendum and they are willing to forego party politics to help us get our message across.”
He continued: “We have an Executive Committee, to be in this you must be both a LFI member and a Labour Party member. We believe this is important to maintain our ties within the party whilst seeking to attract non Labour members in the Labour movement.”
According to BBC Scotland reporter Glenn Campbell, there are currently several Labour MSPs who have signalled they are attracted to the idea of independence.
An SNP spokesperson said: “The Labour for Independence group is organised by members of the Labour Party – others who support a Yes vote are perfectly entitled to campaign across party boundaries with them, including obviously SNP members.
“That is a rather better development than the Labour Party working hand in glove with the Tories in the No campaign.”
The campaign group is not the first to be accused of being a front for the SNP after promoting views that are at odds with those of the Unionist parties.
Last year Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie accused the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations of being a “front organisation” for the SNP and suggested its CEO, Martin Sime should resign.
The body had angered Unionists after calling for a second question to be included on the referendum ballot paper.
In May 2012, Rennie also accused Scotland’s top civil servant Chief Sir Peter Housden of working for the SNP and acting like “an SNP lackey”. The Lib Dem MSP was joined in his attack by Labour MSP Paul Martin who complained Sir Peter should not “cheer Alex Salmond on”.