By a Newsnet reporter
SNP Leader and Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has today congratulated Johann Lamont on her election as leader of Labour in Scotland.
The First Minister said that he now “looked forward” to working with Iain Gray’s replacement on areas where they shared common ground.
Commenting on Ms Lamont’s victory, Mr Salmond said:
“Congratulations to Johann Lamont on her success, and I look forward to our discussions in Parliament. I also look forward to working together with Johann on the areas we can agree on, for the benefit of everyone living in Scotland.”
The new Scottish Labour leader faces a massive challenge as polls show the gap between the SNP and Labour has now widened to a historic 25%, the Nationalists on 51% now commanding majority support amongst voters.
SNP MSP Christina McKelvie warned that Ms Lamont would need to reconsider her approach, after Labour’s disastrous May election campaign. Ms McKelvie also said the leadership result – which saw an outright majority of ordinary Labour Party members back Ken Macintosh – left a huge question mark over the new leader.
Blaming Labour’s poll slump on the party’s “relentless negativity” she added:
“The gap between the SNP and Labour has never been wider, and the scale of the task facing Ms Lamont is enormous. The relentless negativity of Labour over the past five years has seen their poll ratings slump to 26%. Meanwhile, the SNP’s positive vision for Scotland is shared by 51% of voters.
“There can be no doubt that Johann Lamont is the continuity candidate having served as deputy leader of the Labour group at Holyrood for three years.
“Throughout, she has been a relentless oracle of negativity. If she is serious about winning the backing of the people of Scotland, it is a tradition she will have to break with – however, her first speech which concluded with an attack on the SNP suggests nothing is about to change.”
Commenting after her victory, Ms Lamont claimed that nothing would be off limits to Scottish Labour and said: “Our one test will be what is in the interest of the people of Scotland, not what’s in the interest of ourselves.
“I will reach out to people across Scotland who maybe never thought of themselves to be Labour, maybe not even thought themselves to be political, who share our values, and I’ll ask them to join our task.”
Lamont conceded that Labour in Scotland were seen as a “a tired old politics machine” and vowed to alter that perception. However she ended her maiden speech by launching a typical attack on the SNP’s independence referendum schedule saying: “They should get on with it. Waiting is holding Scotland back.”
Ms Lamont’s deputy is Westminster MP Anas Sarwar who said: “This process of renewal is for one key purpose: to give the people of Scotland a Labour Party that they can trust, a Labour Party they can believe in, and a Labour Party that can win.”