Leader comment: Richard Leonard’s vision is a dilemna for the SNP

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard. Pic: Jane Barlow/PA
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard. Pic: Jane Barlow/PA
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NOT so very long ago, certain parts of Scotland were all but no-go areas for Labour politicians.

After the heat of 2014’s independence referendum, the party that once dominated Scottish politics found itself rejected in parts of the country where it might once have weighed rather than counted votes. The SNP succeeded in persuading many voters that the participation of Labour politicians in the cross-party Better Together campaign meant they were simply “Red Tories”. Having planted this idea, the nationalists then – despite their cautious, centrist approach to government – proclaimed themselves the true custodians of traditional Labour values.

Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the Labour Party has – for good or ill – swiftly re-established itself as a radical left-wing force. Nobody – not even Alex Salmond at his most gallus – would suggest Mr Corbyn is any kind of Tory, red or otherwise. Whether or not this approach will bring Labour out of the Scottish political wilderness remains to be seen.

Today, the recently elected leader of Scottish Labour, Richard Leonard, will outline his plans. By his side, will be Jeremy Corbyn. The SNP might have taken control of the City Council, Glasgow might have voted Yes in 2014, but Mr Corbyn will not – we suspect – face the sort of welcome that might have greeted the likes of Jim Murphy or Kezia Dugdale.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s speeches have her as a traditional left-winger, the sort of radical who’s wont to remark that “I didn’t leave Labour, Labour left me”, but Mr Corbyn, with his appetite for higher taxation and re-nationalisation, is the real thing. Mr Leonard is a relative unknown in Scottish politics but if he can swiftly establish himself as Corbyn’s man, then he may hold appeal among voters who turned to the SNP in the search for something radical.

The notion that higher taxes and nationalisation are what Scotland needs in these difficult times is simply turning back the clock to policies that failed in the past. It does, however, represent a genuine dilemna for the First Minister. With a resurgent Tory Party gathering up votes on the centre-right and Scottish Labour now firmly on the left, the SNP is under attack from both sides. We’re not sure the nationalists’ middle-of-the-road approach to policy will serve them especially well in the current political climate.