Andrew Whitaker: No third option may encourage Labour supporters to vote Yes

THE launch of the Labour for independence campaign has predictably been seized upon by the SNP as the sign of an irresistible surge towards a Yes vote in the 2014 referendum.

Alex Salmond’s party has already teamed up with non-SNP figures such as former BBC boss Blair Jenkins and former Labour MP and MSP Dennis Canavan to form the Yes campaign. Nationalist strategists will now be keen to promote the existence of a faction of pro-independence Labour members.

However, it’s difficult to assess just how big a faction the pro-independence lobby actually is within Scottish Labour. Up until now, there’s has barely been a murmur from anyone within the party advocating outright independence going into the 2014 referendum. No big hitter in today’s Labour’s current ranks, or even from yesteryear, has come out and said that the cause of socialism would be advanced by leaving the UK.

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But while the Labour for independence campaign may currently lack support within the party, that’s not to say that it doesn’t represent a coherent strand of thinking within the wider labour movement in Scotland.

The Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) has been one of the most enthusiastic backers of the stance closely associated with devo-max, which demands full economic powers for Holyrood.

It is widely known that not all trade unionists are Labour supporters and it’s entirely possibly that the Labour for independence campaign may find some backers within Scottish trade unions, including some from within those affiliated to Johann Lamont’s party.

But there is another issue here, that of Labour supporters being driven into the arms of the pro-independence cause if voters are denied the chance of a second question on more powers in the referendum and simply asked to chose between the status quo and a break with the UK.

There’s a significant body of opinion within Scottish Labour that wants Holyrood to be handed enhanced economic powers to allow the pursuit of policies linked to the redistribution of wealth and greater social justice.

As things stand it’s hard to see how the current devolution settlement would allow the pursuit of such an agenda.

A particularly vocal supporter of this stance has been the Labour MSP Neil Findlay – one of the most impressive of the party’s new intake at the last election.

Mr Findlay is not likely to come out for the Labour for independence campaign, but former Scottish Labour chairman Bob Thomson has said that if he was “pushed into a corner” in a straight yes-no question on whether Scotland should remain in the UK, he would back independence.

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It’s not impossible that others could follow, but whether this will see any serious backing for the new campaign launched by Labour Party member and independence supporter Allan Grogan remains very much to be seen.