Kezia Dugdale dismisses Scottish Labour breakaway

Scottish Labour leadership candidate Kezia Dugdale has said she does not support calls to break away from the UK party.

Scottish Labour leadership candidate Kezia Dugdale with Iain Gray, right. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Ms Dugdale, who is competing with Eastwood MSP Ken Macintosh for the top job, backed greater autonomy for Scottish Labour as well as a move to a ‘one member, one vote’ model for electing its leaders.

The current deputy leader dismissed a suggestion from Cowdenbeath Labour MSP Alex Rowley that the party should free itself from the “constraints” of the UK party in order to rebuild after May’s electoral defeat.

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“I favour a much more autonomous Scottish Labour party, I’d like to see us set our own policy here but I don’t support an independent party, I think that’s wrong,” she said.

“I’d like to see us on more regular occasions have a slightly different, a more nuanced position on the issues in Scotland, standing up for Scotland’s interests.

“We can do that with greater party autonomy, that doesn’t mean we are an independent party, that would mean completely separating ourselves off from our UK colleagues and I don’t want to do that, I don’t think that’s right.

“Especially if you follow the logic of the referendum, which is that we pull and share the resources of our great country.”

Mr Macintosh, who ran for the leadership in 2011, has also backed the ‘one member, one vote’ model as well as the introduction of open primaries. He wants councillors to have more say within the party and argues the next deputy leader of Scottish Labour should be drawn from local government.

Ms Dugdale said she welcomed the competition from Mr Macintosh in the race to take over from Jim Murphy, who resigned after the party’s disastrous general election result.

She insisted she was the right person to lead the party despite being branded “deputy disaster” by presenter Gordon Brewer for her part in the ill-fated campaign.

Ms Dugdale said: “I take responsibility for my part in that campaign but let’s be honest, the Scottish Labour Party’s problems didn’t happen overnight and they won’t be fixed overnight.

“That’s why I’m setting out a platform of how I’m going to rebuild the Labour Party, I’m saying let’s take forward our values, everything else is baggage, and let’s rebuild over the long term.”

Mr Macintosh has said he wants to see council leaders have a greater say in choosing the party leader as part of a “radical change” in the way it operates.

“The Labour Party has always championed fairness and tackling inequality, but in the past our internal structures have not reflected that same drive for equality,” the Eastwood MSP said in a video message yesterday.

“We need to become more open, more transparent and we must shift control of our party from the corridors of power to the communities of Scotland,” he said.

“With over 300 councillors working day in, day out, it’s time to ensure they have a real say in the leadership of our party.

“That’s why I believe the next deputy leader of the Scottish Labour party should come from local government.”