Westminster MP could lead Labour in Scotland as party review ends

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By G.A.Ponsonby
 
Control of the Labour party north of the border could fall to a London based MP.  The possibility looked likely after an internal review proposed that MPs and MEPs be allowed to put themselves forward in a contest to replace current leader Iain Gray.
 
The review, spearheaded by MP Jim Murphy and MSP Sarah Boyack, resulted from Labour’s disastrous Scottish election defeat that saw the party consigned to a second successive term in opposition and the SNP claim an historic majority of MSPs in the Scottish parliament.

According to Mr Murphy the overhaul of Labour in Scotland is the biggest in 90 years and “marks a fresh start” for the party north of the border.

Mr Murphy said: “From now on, whatever is devolved to the Scottish Parliament will be devolved to the Scottish Labour Party.

“Structures in themselves don’t win us elections, but this, the biggest change for 90 years, marks a fresh start for the Scottish Labour Party.

Mr Murphy added: “Scotland has changed and now it’s time for Scottish Labour to change too.”

The new proposals include fully devolving the Scottish arm of Labour from the UK party on all Scottish matters together with changes to the party at local level and the setting up of an Edinburgh base.  However media reports of “full devolution” have yet to be fully explained as there does not yet exist an official ‘Scottish Labour Party’.

The plan to open up the Scottish leadership contest to non MSPs is the clearest sign yet that the Labour hierarchy wish to remove power from the Holyrood Labour group.  Despite the contest being opened up to non-MSPs, reports in some newspapers suggest that the Holyrood group has been given an undertaking that the next leader will indeed be an MSP.

Currently there are only two contenders to replace Iain Gray – Glasgow MSP Johann Lamont and Glasgow South MP Tom Harris. Eastwood MSP Ken Macintosh is expected to announce his own candidacy later today.

If the role falls to an MP then it will result in Labour policy on devolved issues being determined by someone who sits in London.  Such a situation would damage the credibility of the Labour MSP chosen to pose questions to First Minister Alex Salmond each week at FMQs and also throws up the possibility of a Labour First Minister who is subservient to a Westminster based MP.

Commenting, SNP MSP for Cathcart James Dornan said:

“Just as the Tories are trying to abolish themselves Labour now finds itself stuck with the dilemma that they want independence for their party whilst wanting Scotland to be run from London.

“They claim the road to renewal starts by loosening the ties with the London leadership but then propose to elect an MP as leader and say they’ll still have to get the London leadership’s say so to do that. This report is also an admission that they think most of their MSPs and MPs are useless – something the Scottish population have known for some time.”