Labour’s Scottish meltdown could get even worse at next year’s Holyrood election, Kezia Dugdale has admitted.
The leadership frontrunner yesterday delivered a stark warning about the scale of the task she faces to revive the party’s fortunes in Scotland as the younger generation turn to the SNP.
If I am elected leader I won’t stand for business as usual just because it’s inconvenient to say otherwise. I’m going to shake things up.Kezia Dugdale
She has also revealed that Labour members could push for a vote on becoming fully independent from the UK party amid emerging calls from grassroots members.
Dugdale said she had been “shocked” by a TNS poll last week which suggested that 80 per cent of people aged 25 to 34 would be voting SNP in next May’s Holyrood election – and just 5 per cent would be backing Labour.
“We may not be at the bottom of where the Labour party could get to in Scottish public life,” Dugdale told supporters.
“There might be another storm coming,” she said.
“That’s part of the reason why I’m stepping up because I think I’m best placed to try to speak to that generation, to understand their hopes and aspirations – and to realise that in terms of policy. But it’s rooted in our values.”
Writing in Scotland on Sunday today Dugdale also sets out the need to win back the under-35s after only a “tiny fraction” voted Labour in May’s election
“That has serious implications about our long-term future as a Party if we don’t reverse that trend,” she says.
“Having a leader who is part of that younger generation would help.”
Labour has not been focused enough on Holyrood and the Scottish Parliament since devolution, Dugdale said.
“We’ve had election cycle after election cycle where we got it wrong and still didn’t fix it – until a couple of weeks ago when the electorate fixed it for us.
“The electorate decided for us that the centre of Scottish politics for Labour was the Scottish Parliament.”
The party must address the issue of how it “presents itself”, she added.
“We were very, very good at saying to people, ‘here are all the things that are wrong with Scotland’,” she said.
“There’s a lot of people on low pay, so we’re going to introduce a living wage. “There are lots of people out of work, so we’re going to create job opportunities for young people.
“The NHS is a mess, so we’re going to employ 1,000 more nurses. Problem, problem, problem – fix, fix, fix.
“We made people feel bad about Scotland. We have the opportunity of a better life or a better future.
“What the SNP did, in my view, was to say ‘Scotland’s great, it would be so much better if you vote for us’.”
Dugdale will today unveil plans to overhaul the party’s internal structures, which could let grassroots members bring forward a vote on an independent Scottish Labour party at future conferences.
Leadership rival Ken Macintosh, in a separate article for today’s paper, has pledged to adopt a “less aggressive and adversarial” style if he wins the party leadership.
“Every week at First Minister’s Questions we seem to simply blame the Scottish Government for everything that’s wrong in Scotland, we constantly define ourselves by who or what we’re opposed to, when we should be talking with conviction, hope and passion about the successful and fairer Scotland we want to create.”