By a Newsnet reporter
Labour leader Ed Miliband has suffered humiliating embarrassment on the day he visited Scotland after a major trade union revealed its members had backed a Yes vote.
Mr Miliband was visiting Scotland in an attempt at persuading traditional Labour voters to reject independence and vote No in September’s referendum.
However in a surprise announcement, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) announced that a ballot of its Scottish members had revealed most supported Yes.
An RMT spokesman said: “RMT has conducted a referendum ballot of our members in Scotland and they have narrowly recorded a majority in support of the position.
“That ballot result has been reported to the union’s executive and we will be sending out a formal letter to our members in Scotland in due course.”
The trade union, the largest of the rail unions, has over 10,000 members in Scotland and represents many offshore workers.
The announcement is a major blow to Mr Miliband who it is reported cancelled a planned trip to Aberdeen in favour of a visit to Blantyre in Lanarkshire.
Labour Party member and former Chairman of the Scottish Labour Party Bob Thomson said: “This is a major boost for the Yes campaign, reflecting the fact that already around a third of Labour members intend to vote Yes.
“On the day Ed Miliband is in Scotland, it demonstrates that trade union members are rejecting the Westminster elite – and backing Yes in increasing numbers – because they want the powers here in Scotland to build social justice.
“As this ballot shows, Mr Miliband doesn’t speak for trade unionists and Labour voters in Scotland on the referendum – he speaks on behalf a No campaign, which wants to deny the people of Scotland the opportunity of a lifetime to build a fairer society.
“By voting Yes, we really will abolish the Bedroom Tax, banish Trident nuclear weapons, set an example for peace and progress in the world, transform childcare, and ensure that the natural resources of Scotland benefit future generations.”
RMT member Cllr Malcolm Balfour – who is also SNP Trade Union Liaison Officer – said: “I welcome RMT members’ momentous decision to back a Yes vote. It is a welcome addition to the growing list of support for an independent Scotland. As an RMT member myself, the result is very satisfying and I’m very proud the membership are backing a fairer, more prosperous Scotland.”
The trade union is the second to come out in favour of a Yes vote in the referendum, joining the Prison Officers Association Scotland. It also emerged today that members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), have indicated they are happier with policies from the Yes campaign on workers’ issues than with the responses from the No campaign.
Mr Miliband’s trip to Scotland comes less than a week after Conservative leader David Cameron paid a similar visit. Both men, members of the anti-independence Better Together alliance, hurried north after polls showed Yes closing the gap on its No campaign rival.
Commenting on today’s news, a spokesman for Scottish Labour said: “Six trade unions, representing 140,000 people across the public and private sector in Scotland, are in favour of a ‘No’ vote on 18 September.
“The vast majority of trade unionists in Scotland agree that we are stronger together and want to side with the politics of unity and solidarity, and not the politics of division.
“Even this ballot did not show a majority in favour of independence – 59% of people who voted didn’t support a ‘Yes’ vote.”