The Union is over admits Iain Gray as he launches bitter attack on SNP supporters

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By a Newsnet reporter 
 
Outgoing Labour front man Iain Gray has admitted that the 1707 Union between Scotland and England is now over and that an independent Scotland is possible.
 
Speaking at a special conference in Glasgow where rivals for the new role of Scottish Labour leader were in attendance Mr Gray insisted that Labour should now concentrate on ‘saving devolution’.

Mr Gray said: “I do not believe that a strong fair and equal Scotland in a strong fair and equal Britain is the only possible future for Scotland – but I am sure that it is the best possible future for Scotland.

“We must engage in that debate now not to save the union but to save devolution.  Because it is not the union of 1707 the SNP wish to destroy.  That is long gone.  It is devolution they wish to dismantle.”

Mr Gray, giving his last ever speech to party activists in his role as Labour leader, used the opportunity to launch a bitter attack on the SNP and the party’s supporters.

Describing the SNP’s criticisms of Labour as ‘ugly’ Mr Gray claimed that whoever became the leader of the Labour party in Scotland would suffer smears, be lied about and be threatened by SNP voters.

In an astonishing outburst that suggested Mr Gray had yet to come to terms with the legacy of his disastrous leadership he described critics of the Labour party as ‘cybernats’ and ‘bedsit bloggers’ who, he said, will specifically target women.

Speaking to the three candidates – Ken Macintosh, Tom Harris and Johann Lamont – each vying for the new revamped role of Scottish leader, Mr Gray said:  “You will be attacked, you will be smeared, you will be lied about, you will be threatened.

“The ‘cybernats’ and the bedsit bloggers will call you traitor, quisling, lapdog, liar and worse.

“They will question your appearance, your integrity and your sexuality.  They will drag your family and your faith into the lies and the vitriol.  If you are a woman it will be worse.”

Mr Gray also spoke of the forthcoming referendum on independence and acknowledged that the future of Scotland was now a legitimate debate that Labour had to start engaging in.

He said: “The people have decided that we should now debate the future of Scotland and whether it lies within the United Kingdom or not.

“We have to engage in that debate and we must win it.

“Because I believe with all my heart that Scotland is big enough, smart enough and rich enough in talent to stand with our comrades, friends, neighbours, workmates and family all across these islands.”

Mr Gray’s claim that non-Labour voters target females is sure to provoke anger and comes only days after Westminster Labour MP Ian Davidson was forced to apologise after claims he threatened a female MP with a ‘doing’ if details of a private meeting were leaked.

Describing Mr Gray’s final speech as “bizarre” Glasgow Kelvin MSP Sandra White wished the outgoing Labour leader well and urged his successor to try to play a more positive and constructive role in the Scottish parliament

Ms White questioned whether Labour was as committed to changing their negative approach as they had claimed and said:

“This is a bizarre speech from Iain Gray and a return to the type of politics Labour are supposed to be leaving behind.

“In a week where the Labour leadership has failed to take any action over the bullying comments of an MP it considers fit to stand for Deputy leader Iain Gray’s speech is simply empty rhetoric.

“We look forward to a new Labour leader who will take an open minded approach instead of the petty politics that saw Iain Gray lead Labour to oppose minimum pricing for alcohol, vote against funding for 25,000 apprenticeships a year, backing for small businesses, a council tax freeze
to help hard pressed families and stand in the way of the people’s right to choose Scotland’s way forward.

“We wish Iain Gray well with the next stage of his career and hope that his successor will make a positive contribution to Scottish politics, learn from the last four years, heed the lessons of leading figures like Henry McLeish and Malcolm Chisholm and work in Parliament in the best interests of the people of Scotland.”