Scottish independence: Unite leader slams No camp

THE leader of Britain’s biggest trade union has slammed the negativity of the Better Together campaign to keep Scotland in the UK, and warned that Scots will back independence if they think the Tories can win the 2015 election.

Len McCluskey. Picture: PA
Len McCluskey. Picture: PA

Speaking at the press gallery lunch in the Commons Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, criticised the “threats, threats, threats” of the No campaign, and said that if Scots are to reject independence Labour leader Ed Miliband and his party will “have to show they are on the side of ordinary working people”.

McCluskey also warned that Labour is “at a crossroads” and said that there was “a battle” going on within the party over its future direction.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

He also said that his union could disaffiliate from Labour or Scottish Labour after the general election in 2015 if Mr Miliband fails to get the party back into power.

Unite ‘neutral’

McCluskey insisted that his party’s position on independence is “neutral” because “if we came out for or against independence we would split our union almost down the middle.”

He added: “Our internal polling tells us that at the last Scottish Parliament election 40 per cent of Unite members voted SNP. That’s a huge shift. In Scotland Unite members would normally vote about 80 per cent for Labour.

“That huge shift of course is what enabled the SNP to take power in a parliament that was not designed to give power to any overall party. So that is an important factor.”

He continued: “There’s certainly a challenge in the Scottish Labour Party to demonstrate that they are on the side of ordinary Scottish working people. Alex Salmond at the moment is charging up Labour’s left wing, and seems in many ways more radical than the Labour Party.”


But McCluskey also warned that if the Tories are ahead in the polls in September it could swing the referendum to the Yes camp.

He said: “We are talking about a nation that has kicked the Tories out of Scotland. There is only one (Conservative) MP up in Scotland and if come September the opinion polls down here are demonstrating that perhaps the Tories might get back into power, then that might have an influence on which way the Scottish people vote.

“They may take the view ‘I’m not putting up with another five years of Tory policy, I may as well vote for independence and take our chance now.’”

He also pointed out that the Quebec vote in 1995 was only won by the No camp by 0.5 per cent despite a healthy lead in the opinion polls until the last week.

Comparing it to Scotland, he said: “A lot was on the basis that there was too much negativity and the Quebecans (sic) felt they were being threatened and we are seeing that now with the No campaign, just threats, threats, threats.”