THE Yes campaign was forced into an embarrassing U-turn over its use of a Labour politician who supports independence in its publicity material after learning he was banned from standing as an MP for boasting about his sex life and making racist comments.
Yes Scotland promoted former Westminster candidate John Cowan on its campaign web page as one of the “senior Labour members who back Yes for Scotland’s workers” and included quotes in publicity issued last week.
However, officials at the Yes campaign were forced to “dissociate” themselves from Cowan after The Scotman’s sister paper Scotland on Sunday revealed he had been dropped as a Labour candidate on the eve of the 2010 general election, over allegations that he posted messages of a sexual nature online.
Cowan was also thrown out of the Lib Dems in 2004 for sending “sexual” e-mails to women, before going on to join the Labour party.
The incident has led to No campaigners accusing Yes Scotland of “desperation” and for failing to check out the backgrounds of independence supporters from other parties.
Labour MSP Neil Findlay said: “Now we have the Yes campaign trying to dig up anyone at all whom they claim is a ‘senior figure’. This is truly desperate stuff.”
Yes Scotland told how Cowan had strong Scottish roots, his family come from Kirkcaldy, and that he backed independence due to a “strong sense of national pride” despite being a local Labour councillor in Norfolk.
However, last week, once campaign managers learned he had been removed as a Westminster candidate in 2010 for reportedly boasting about his sexual exploits online and for saying he would not want his children to marry a Muslim, they took action.
In a major embarrassment for the independence lobby, Yes Scotland removed Cowan’s name from its online list of supporters on its website and removed the press release it had issued with quotes from him backing its cause.
Yes Scotland last night issued a statement denying any prior knowledge of Cowan being ousted as a Labour general election candidate.
A spokesman for Yes Scotland said: “We have no knowledge of this and would dissociate ourselves from any behaviour such as you allege. It should be noted that a third of Labour voters already intend to vote Yes.”
The UK Labour general secretary suspended Cowan, 39, as one of the party’s official general election candidates days before voters went to the polls in 2010.
Cowan last night admitted posting remarks on websites but claimed they had been taken “totally out of context”. He said he was a registered supporter of Yes Scotland and hoped to spend time campaigning for the group.
When he was asked about his name being removed from the Yes Campaign’s online list of independence supporters from other parties, Cowan said: “I’ll have to speak to them about it.”