Scottish independence: Labour figure joins Yes

John Mulvey, a former Labour council leader, has pledged his support to the Yes Scotland campaign. Picture: Contributed
John Mulvey, a former Labour council leader, has pledged his support to the Yes Scotland campaign. Picture: Contributed
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A FORMER council leader has become the latest Labour party stalwart to pledge his support for independence.

John Mulvey, the ex-leader of Lothian Regional Council, is now urging Labour supporters to vote Yes in the referendum in September.

He follows other senior Labour figures such as former Cosla president Sir Charles Gray who have recently announced they would be campaigning for a Yes vote.

Mulvey said: “I have gone from being a sceptic about the relevance of devolution given all the other major political issues of that time to being absolutely convinced that Scotland’s future now lies with independence.”

He was leader of the former Lothian Regional Council in the late 1980s. During this period, he was the “boss” of the current pro-union Better Together campaign leader Alistair Darling, who was a young regional councillor.

The achievements of the Scottish Parliament under devolution, according to Mulvey, 69, show that “the next logical step” is to be fully independent.

“A lot of people out there – former and current Labour supporters – are relatively happy with the Scottish Parliament and see that it can be even better than it currently is if it represented an independent country,” he said.

Mulvey said a Yes vote on 18 September would create a more equal country for future generations.

“I don’t see it as me personally benefitting from independence at my age but I honestly believe it is for my grandchildren,” he added.

“It is an opportunity for them to live in a more egalitarian country that will have done away with nuclear weapons and living in a more green-related approach to the economy.

“First and foremost, this is a hugely important vote for the status of Scotland.

“There are those who don’t support the SNP or, perhaps, don’t like Alex Salmond. But it’s more important than that. People of all political persuasions should come out and vote – preferably for Yes – and then decide what kind of Scotland they want to see in the election of 2016 when the political parties make their cases to be the first elected government of the newly independent nation.”

Despite the emergence of the fringe Labour for Independence group, support for the union had appeared largely solid in senior Labour ranks in Scotland.

But recently Gray, who was leader of Strathclyde Regional Council between 1986 and 1992, and Alex Mosson, former lord provost of Glasgow, who was a contemporary on Glasgow’s Labour administration, declared their support. Leading trade unionist Lorna Binnie also recently declared her support for Yes.

A Scottish Labour spokesman last night played down the announcement.

“Rather than press releasing the views of a former local councillor, perhaps the SNP-led separation campaign should be more focused on trying to convince SNP voters who steadfastly refuse to back their plans to break up Britain,” the spokesman said.

The Yes campaign will be hoping Mulvey’s announcement will deliver a boost in support, with polls indicating that independence is struggling to secure 30 per cent backing among Scots, but the most recent poll showed the gap between the two sides has narrowed to nine points.

Yes Scotland chairman Dennis Canavan said Mulvey would be a “great asset” to the campaign. “I knew John as a Labour councillor in Edinburgh for many years and his experience as former leader of Lothian Regional Council gives him a very valuable insight into the governance of Scotland,” he said.

“John is joining other former council leaders like Charlie Gray and Alex Mosson, who are convinced that independence is the best option for the people of Scotland. I am delighted to be working with such an experienced and dedicated team.”

John Mulvey: ‘Thorn in Thatcher’s side’

JOHN Mulvey was the leader of Lothian Regional Council between 1986 and 1990.

He was a prominent poll tax rebel who was twice taken to court for non-payment and described as a “thorn in the side” of Margaret Thatcher’s government.

He became Labour member for the region’s biggest ward, taking in Slateford and Wester Hailes, in 1978. Four years later he became Labour group leader on the authority, then council leader in 1986, a role he held for four years.

Mulvey still lives in Edinburgh, a short walk from the Holyrood Parliament building.

He was also “boss” of the Better Together campaign’s leader Alistair Darling, who was a young councillor when Mulvey was leader – a point he never fails to make when they meet.

He has worked for various voluntary organisations, including anti-poverty campaigns. He was also heavily involved in campaigning for the first bill in the Scottish Parliament for free school meals.