FORMER Labour MP Dennis Canavan has called for an SNP vote in every constituency on 7 May, as he claimed his former party had “lost the plot“ and was now “completely out of touch” with Scots.
Canavan, who was a Labour MP for 26 years, was chair of the Yes Scotland campaign and has previously offered support to individual pro-independence candidates in the Falkirk area, but has always resisted calling for an SNP vote across Scotland.
However, Canavan told Scotland on Sunday that he had decided to issue a blanket endorsement of the SNP in all 59 Scottish constituencies for the first time.
In a scathing attack on his former party Canavan, who was a Labour MP throughout the 1980s and 1990s, said it had “lost its soul and its moral compass” by backing continued austerity.
Canavan evoked the controversial decision by the SNP’s 11 MPs in 1979 to vote with the Tories for a no confidence motion in James Callaghan’s Labour government, which triggered an election won by Margaret Thatcher.
He said “I never thought I would live to see the day when I would advise people to vote SNP”, when he sat as a Labour MP when the nationalists voted to help bring down a Labour government - something the party is still heavily criticised for.
However, Canavan said the SNP had now replaced Labour as the main leftist and anti-Tory party in Scotland and that the nationalists under the leadership of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon had “moved to the left”.
Canavan was elected as an independent MSP in 1999 after Labour blocked him from standing as a candidate in the first elections for the Scottish parliament elections under devolution.
However, the former Falkirk West MP is widely respected in the Labour movement and played a role in the Labour for Independence campaign - a group of left leaning backers of independence .
Canavan’s claim that the SNP now had “higher standards of social justice” than Labour will come as blow to Jim Murphy’s party in Scotland, which is facing electoral meltdown at the hands of the SNP.
He said “I was a Labour MP in 1979, when 11 Nationalist MPs voted with Margaret Thatcher to bring down a Labour Government and usher in 18 years of Tory rule.
“At that time I never thought I would live to see the day when I would advise people to vote SNP but a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.
“Over the last 30 years,the SNP has moved to the left, whereas Labour has lost its soul and its moral compass by lurching to the right.
“I believe that the majority of the people of Scotland want a left-of-centre government, combining a sound economy with higher standards of social justice rather than the continuing austerity offered by the Tories and Labour.”
Canavan suggested the surge in SNP support was largely due to Labour’s decision to work with the Tories in the No campaign last year - something he claimed most traditional supporters of the party were “sickened” by.
However, he claimed that the election of a large block of SNP MPs on 7 May could help push a Labour government to the left and help the party return to its traditional roots in Scotland.
He said: “Many traditional Labour voters are sickened by the sight of Labour in bed with the Tories and not just during the Referendum Campaign.
“Labour is also in cahoots with the Tories by supporting the benefit cap and more savage cuts in essential services while spending billions of pounds on weapons of war and mass destruction.
“Although I do not endorse every aspect of SNP policy, I am asking people to vote SNP in this General Election because all the Unionist parties at Westminster have lost the plot and are completely out of touch with the people of Scotland.
“A strong SNP team at Westminster would help to build a fairer society throughout the UK. It might even help Labour to rediscover its long lost soul.”
However, Scottish Labour MSP Neil Findlay hit back and claimed the SNP was not a party of the left.
He said: “I find it incredible and sad that a man like Dennis Canavan has been seduced by the empty rhetoric of nationalists who talk the language of progressive politics yet do nothing when they have the power to change lives of ordinary working people.
“If Dennis looks at the proposals of the Labour party to increase taxes to pay for public services to end the scandal of low pay and zero hours contracts and to ensure we redistribute cash from the rich to the poor and South to the north and if he is honest with himself he will know that only a Labour government can deliver the social justice he and I want to see.”