Holyrood 2016: Labour ‘failed’ on constitution says campaign boss

Labour's campaign chief Alex Rowley. Picture: Neil Doig
Labour's campaign chief Alex Rowley. Picture: Neil Doig
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Labour campaign chief Alex Rowley says the party’s “failure” to address its position on Scottish independence was behind another disastrous election result.

The party lost 13 seats to return just 24 MSPs and has now fallen behind the Tories who become the official opposition at Holyrood.

It marks the worst result for Labour in Scotland in almost a century.

Mr Rowley, the party’s deputy leader, said: “We need to address the constitutional question, to set out where we stand in terms of the constitution moving forward and set out a clear vision for the future of Scotland.

“That is what we’ve failed to do.”

He also played down the prospect of Kezia Dugdale being replaced as leader.

“I think Kezia Dugdale in the short period of time that she has been leader has actually made real progress,” he said.

“We said that we wanted to create an autonomous Labour party in Scotland. Kezia Dugdale has pushed that and we’re making real progress there.”

• READ MORE: Holyrood 2016: Kezia Dugdale back to remain Labour leader

He added:“Kezia Dugdale has show real strength, but she she also showed real strength in saying that she would tackle austerity. Others have talked about austerity. Kezia Dugdale was the only leader to set out a clear agenda on how to tackle austerity.”

Labour did not focus on the constitution during the referendum and instead based a campaign around raising taxes to fight austerity cuts.

Mr Rowley went on: “It was right for Labour and it was fairly bold for Kezia Dugdale to set out this agenda moving forward, because we’ve got to tackle the big issues in Scotland so we were right to do that.

“But it’s evidently clear that people are still talking about the constitution and the constitution is still a big issue, so for Labour we’ve got to learn from that and we’ve now got to set out the type of Scotland we would see moving forward, addressing the constitutional question. That is the next step for Labour.”

There is now talk of Labour suffering a “wipeout” in next year’s council elections after losing all its constituency seats to the SNP last night.

Mr Rowley said labour must show it has “an idea for Scotland on how Scotland moves forward.”

But he added: “Unfortunately in Scotland, there has been a label, you’re either unionist or you’re Nationalist. Labour needs to set out what it believes is the best way forward for Scotland.

“That’s what we need to do.”

He went on: “With the SNP and their agenda there will be £3 billion of cuts hammering public services. The only party that was actually proposing to address that was Labour.

“So we were right to do that.”

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