Labour leader Ed Miliband has been branded an electoral “liability” after reports emerged that he was blocked from speaking in an eve-of-referendum rally earlier this year.
Pro-union chiefs in the Better Together Campaign in Scotland feared Mr Miliband’s presence could be detrimental to their campaign, it was claimed.
Labour last night insisted Mr Miliband played a “vital role” in the referendum campaign and was in Scotland more than any other Westminster leader.
But the reports placed fresh questions over the role Mr Miliband will play in the coming UK election campaign north of the Border, with Labour haemorrhaging support to the SNP.
It was also claimed Tories Philip Hammond and Iain Duncan Smith were banned from campaigning by members of their own campaign.
Nationalists last night seized on the reports, which also claimed Mr Miliband had a “hugely negative impact” on the campaign. SNP Glasgow Cathcart MSP James Dornan said: “These revelations prove that Ed Miliband was seen by his party as a liability during the referendum campaign – a Labour leader seen as so out of touch that he joined senior Tories Philip Hammond and Iain Duncan Smith in not being permitted to even speak to voters in Scotland.”
It was claimed that Mr Miliband was asked by then Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont “Why are you here? You are not winning any votes.”
Ms Lamont subsequently quit as Scottish leader after the referendum victory, accusing Mr Miliband of treating Scotland like a “branch office.” Another Labour source described Mr Miliband as a “total liability” who had a “hugely negative” impact on the referendum campaign and “didn’t win us one vote”.
But a Scottish Labour spokesman last night played down the reports. “The referendum was a decision taken in Scotland by people who live and work here,” he said. “Ed Miliband played a vital role in the campaign to keep the UK together and campaigned in Scotland more than any other UK party leader.”
A weekend poll forecast that Labour is facing heavy losses at the general election in May to the SNP, which is expected to take 45 of Scotland’s 59 seats. The collapse of Labour in Scotland would offset any gains the party makes in England and Wales and could put Downing Street beyond Mr Miliband’s reach.
Labour has slumped to 26 per cent in Westminster voting intentions, while the SNP is on track for 43 per cent, an ICM poll of 1,004 Scottish adults states. Labour’s previous hold on 41 seats could slip down to 10, while the SNP is set to increase from six seats to 45 of Scotland’s total 59 places in the Commons.