One of Labour’s major backers in Scotland has called on the party to cut ties with London and to prepare for independence.
Businessman Brian Dempsey, who has given significant financial backing to the party, has claimed that Labour in Scotland should start to concentrate on how they can achieve the “best results for Scotland”.
Speaking in the Scotsman newspaper Mr Dempsey called for the Scottish arm to break from the “coat-tails of Millbank towers … unchain itself from the anchor of London” and “set sail as an independent party”.
The businessman, who is a life-long Labour supporter, says the party should start “thinking and planning for independence” adding that whilst Labour may not want independence “it is prudent and sensible to prepare for the possibility of things not going according to plan.”
Mr Dempsey also condemned the idea of Iain Gray remaining as leader after the autumn and called on either Douglas Alexander or Jim Murphy to be brought in to replace him.
Responding to Mr Dempsey’s comments SNP MSP for Glasgow Anniesland Bill Kidd said:
“Brian Dempsey’s comments will certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons at John Smith House, it is clear Labour’s donors and supporters think the party has a long way to go.
“For Labour’s biggest backer in Scotland to put the party on independence footing shows how far Scotland has come and how far behind Labour are.”
Mr Dempsey dismissed claims that the recent Inverclyde by-election win was the start of a turnaround and suggested the party faced a re-run of the Scottish election result when the local council elections are eventually held. These, said Mr Dempsey, were effectively “micro-miniature” versions of the national election.
The millionaire donor called for policies to be drafted based on how they benefited Scotland and “not on how they would impact on Ed Miliband’s general election prospects”.
Mr Dempsey called on Scottish Labour politicians to set aside personal ambitions and return to Scotland to “save the country”.
His comments are sure to add to the increasing tension within Labour over their direction, their leadership and their continued opposition to further constitutional change. A recent poll indicated that they were now trailing the SNP on Westminster voting intentions and there have been calls from senior figures for the party to alter its constitutional stance and to support full fiscal autonomy.