Labour figures shun Better Together over Tory role

Tory involvement in the Alistair Darling-led Better Together campaign has led to some Labour activists shunning the group. Picture: PA
Tory involvement in the Alistair Darling-led Better Together campaign has led to some Labour activists shunning the group. Picture: PA
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SENIOR figures within Scottish Labour are refusing to get involved in the anti-independence Better Together campaign, amid rising concerns about Conservative involvement in the group.

Labour politicians at Holyrood and Westminster, as well as Scottish trade union officials, have stayed away from the cross-party campaign for a No vote, despite the group being led by former Chancellor Alistair Darling.

Party figures are unhappy about the alliance with the Tories at the same time as the UK government is pursuing the controversial Bedroom Tax that means social housing tenants with spare bedrooms must move to a smaller home or lose up to 25 per cent of housing benefit.

Some Labour politicians have opted to get involved in United With Labour - the party’s campaign against independence launched by Gordon Brown this spring - instead of Better Together.

Labour MP Katy Clark said there was “no advantage” to the party in co-operating with the Tories in the campaign against independence in parts of Scotland.

Ms Clark said: “Personally I’m not involved in a cross party campaign, but people have different views.

“There are large parts of the West of Scotland where’s there’s no advantage to campaigning with the Tories.

“People want to put the Labour message out as to why they should vote against independence.”

Labour MSP Elaine Smith, a deputy presiding officer, said her constituency party in Coatbridge and Chryston had decided not to get involved with Better Together.

She said: “It’s really just a Labour Party campaign and we’re not doing a joint initiative. That’s my constituency party’s position to do it ourselves as a Labour Party.

“We wanted to run a Labour campaign rather than a joint position with the Tories.”

There was also opposition to involvement in Better Together from two senior trade union officials in Scotland because of the roles on of the Conservatives in the campaign.

Richard Leonard, Scotland organiser for the GMB union, said: “When the Tories are attacking the poorest in society, it’s pretty difficult to sit with them and to argue for a progressive Scotland.”

Dave Watson, head of campaigns at of Unison, said: “It’s certainly the case t Talking to those of our members who oppose independence, I can’t think of any that have done much with Better Together.”

Former Scottish Labour chairman Bob Thomson suggested that his party’s alliance with the Conservatives in Better Together could harm the campaign against independence.

He said: “It’s destructive. It’s talking down Scotland and saying it would have basket case of an economy.

“There will be a reaction to that constant negative politics.”

But Labour’s Lord George Foulkes, a supporter of Better Together, claimed that Mr said Alistair Darling’s role as leader of Better Together should reassure party members.

He said: “Gordon Brown and Anas Sarwar lead the Labour campaign against independence, while Alistair Darling is an exceptional leader of the cross party campaign.

“It makes me more comfortable that Alistair Darling is involved. I’m quite relaxed about it.”

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