A Scottish Labour candidate has said the party has to do “a lot of soul-searching” over whether to support independence as she underlined her own support for breaking up the UK.
Mary Lockhart, Labour candidate for Mid Scotland and Fife, claimed Labour had yet to recognise that 30 per cent of its membership had voted Yes in the independence referendum.
Speaking at a Women for Independence event, she also claimed that 50 per cent or more of Labour’s traditional voters voted Yes in 2014, saying support for independence was strongest in the party’s traditional heartlands.
Ms Lockhart’s remarks, which were made in response to an audience member who claimed some Labour MSPs who back independence, led to fresh calls for Kezia Dugdale to explain her party’s position on the constitution.
Ms Lockhart said: “The Labour Party is going to have a lot of soul searching to do. Kezia Dugdale has already indicated she is comfortable for Labour members to campaign for a Yes vote in a referendum.”
The candidate went on to say that she had spoken with the deputy leader Alex Rowley about the constitution.
“I spoke with Alex Rowley about this last night and he said that he supported home rule,” Ms Lockhart said. “I asked for a clearer definition of home rule...Alex Rowley’s working of it out was a federal system of all the countries of Britain which might actually in the end include Ireland.”
She then discussed what position the party might take after the election. She acknowledged that many had joined Labour during the referendum because they were of a Unionist persuasion. But then there had been those who joined as a result of the Jeremy Corbyn bandwagon. “Ironically, we’re relying on a re-influx of people who came in because of Corbyn but who support independence,” she said.
• READ MORE: David Cameron ‘didn’t care’ about independence, claims ex-MP On whether Labour will support independence eventually, she added: “It will depend on who joins and who leaves after this election. I will still certainly be arguing for a campaign for independence within the Labour party. The party is unlikely this time to adopt a line. It won’t campaign for independence. It just won’t stop anybody else from doing so.”
Ms Lockhart’s comments led to Labour being urged to clarify its position by the Conservatives.
Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “Kezia Dugdale refused to say at the weekend whether or not Labour candidates were allowed to back independence.
“Now we know why - while Scottish Labour claims to be the party of the union, its candidates are telling public meetings they support breaking it up.
“Mary Lockhart’s support for independence is well known and she has an honest position. “But if Ms Dugdale is whole-hearted about her support for the Union, why are her candidates who oppose the Union allowed to stand?
• READ MORE: Ex-Labour councillor backs Yes “Ms Dugdale now needs to make it clear whether she is happy for candidates like Ms Lockhart to campaign for independence or not. “The bigger question is how Labour can hold the SNP to account on independence when its own candidates support it?
“This weakness will only allow the SNP to push ahead with their plans for a second referendum, and stop us getting the better government we all want.”
Mr Carlaw added: “A strong Scottish Conservative opposition will be is clear about supporting our place in the UK - so that we stop a second referendum and get the Scottish Government focused on what matters.”