LABOUR chiefs say a rebellion among its grassroots members in favour of independence lacks “any real support” within party ranks.
A website has been launched called Labour for Independence, which is urging Scottish party leader Johann Lamont to allow members a vote on the constitutional question, with a view to shifting the party’s stance in favour of leaving the UK in the 2014 referendum.
Senior Labour figures say the website, launched by party member Allan Grogan, has attracted plentiful backing from SNP supporters. But the party insists that members are free to bring policy suggestions before Labour conference.
A posting by Mr Grogan on the website states: “I’m pleased that we have given the pro-indy Labour voters a home to voice their opinions.
“In the last month, we have gained 24,000 Facebook viewers, created our own website, which after one week has more than 2,000 hits.”
He also urges pro-independence Labour supports to turn out at a major rally planned for 22 September.
“We need to show the Labour Party, the rest of the political parties and the media watching, that there is a genuine demand from Labour voters for independence,” he adds.
“In the coming months, we will look to appeal to Ms Lamont and the heads of the Scottish Labour Party for a membership vote on Labour’s stance.”
Nationalists were quick to seize on the move, with Christine McKelvie, who chairs Holyrood’s external relations committee, urging the party hierarchy to listen to its grassroots. membership.
“People of all parties and none are warming to the idea of an independent Scotland,” Ms McKelvie said.
“It is only fair and democratic that grassroots Labour members should be given the opportunity to discuss the merits of voting Yes to an independent Scotland in 2014.
“Johann Lamont and the Labour Party in Scotland leadership’s sponsored silence on Trident, abandonment of free higher education and anti-independence pact with Tories is leaving them looking very lost indeed. It is little wonder the people of Scotland are looking elsewhere for politicians to reflect their views and values.”
Former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling is the man leading Better Together, the official campaign for Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom. Ms Lamont joined Tory leader Ruth Davidson and Liberal Democrat chief Willie Rennie at the official launch earlier this year.
Labour North East MSP Richard Baker, who is a member on the Better Together board, yesterday played down the pro-independence move within the party.
“Labour members have the right to bring policy suggestions to conference where they can be debated,” he said. “However, as we are focused on social justice in the widest sense, we believe that we all achieve more together than apart.
“I also note that the website has lots of support from SNP backers, but lacks any real support from within our own ranks. Scottish Labour will fight to keep Britain together, because we believe that we are stronger together.”
A recent opinion poll on behalf of think-tank Reform Scotland, which is behind the devo-plus campaign, found that almost three-quarters of Labour voters wanted unionists to campaign for more powers for the Scottish Parliament during the referendum campaign.