THE former Scottish Labour MP Dennis Canavan has said he will back a “yes” vote in the independence referendum and has offered to campaign alongside the SNP in support of breaking away from the UK.
Mr Canavan, who was expelled from Labour after 26 years as an MP, also launched a strongly worded attack on his former party, accusing it of promoting the “preservation of the union ahead of social justice”.
The veteran left-winger told The Scotsman that his long experience at Westminster and eight years as an MSP convinced him that the Scottish Parliament was “more democratic and responsive to the needs” of Scots than the House of Commons.
Mr Canavan said that full independence would deliver “higher standards of social justice” as he attacked Westminster politicians, including Scottish MPs, as “living in a cocoon” and of being “completely out of touch”.
The former Falkirk West Labour politician, who has previously endorsed SNP candidates in his former constituency, came out in support of full independence as he insisted that Holyrood’s track record on issues such as free prescriptions and free personal care bolstered the case for a split with the UK.
Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomed Mr Canavan’s backing for full independence, as she described the former Labour MP as a “widely respected figure” in Scottish politics.
Ms Sturgeon said: “His positive comments about independence, and how with full welfare and financial powers we can build social justice in Scotland, are extremely welcome and will be influential in the debate on Scotland’s future.”
However, Labour MSP Drew Smith said: “Inequality in Scotland did not begin 300 years ago when the union was formed and it will not magically disappear if Scotland separates from the rest of the United Kingdom.”
Mr Canavan stepped out of the political limelight several years ago to write an autobiography, Let the People Decide, in which he spoke of his “indescribable grief” following the deaths of three of his four children. He also expressed regret for the amount of time he spent away from his family when the children were young, fostering his career at Westminster.
Now Mr Canavan has turned his attention to the upcoming independence referendum, arguing for a “yes” vote to a single question and dismissing the alternatives backed by some unionist politicians.
He said: “It’s completely confusing to the electorate with all this devo-plus and devo-max. People know what independence means – that the Scottish Parliament has the same full powers as other parliaments.
“I’ll be voting ‘yes’ to independence. That’s based on my experience at Westminster and as an MSP that most politicians at Westminster ignore the people of Scotland. During my time in the Scottish Parliament I felt that it was much more democratic and responsive to the needs of the aspirations of the people of Scotland.”