Scottish Labour delegates reject motion to back single market membership

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Scottish Labour delegates have today backed the leadership’s position on Brexit amid claims of an attempt to “close down” debate .

The party’s Spring conference heard angry exchanges amid claims of “interference” by the party’s ruling executive - accusations which were denounced as “lies.”

Richard Leonard addresses delegates during the Scottish Labour conference at Dundee's Caird Hall. Picture: PA

Richard Leonard addresses delegates during the Scottish Labour conference at Dundee's Caird Hall. Picture: PA

Moderates led by former leader Kezia Dugdale have been seeking to secure Scottish Labour backing for a membership of the EU single market after Brexit.

But this was rejected overwhelmingly by delegates at the party’s Spring conference after debate today as Union leaders led calls to back a motion by the party’s Scottish Executive Committee.

This backed UK Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer’s six key tests on Brexit.

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The Scottish Labour for the Single Market campaign group has been pushing for the party to advocate remaining within the trading bloc. The group had a motion before the conference today, but there was anger among some groups that the party’s Executive had produced an 11th hour motion backing Jeremy Corbyn’s position which stops short of single market membership.

Donald McKinnon (Western Isles) voiced dismay that the vote on the leadership motion, meant the single market motion would not be staged.

“This composite motion made up from CLPs across Scotland from Selkirk to Stornoway deserves to be voted on by this conference,” he said.

“The SEC should not have interfered with the democratic process of conference.”

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But this was met with boos and jeers from many of the delegates.

Executive committee member Jackson Cullinane of the Unite union, later hit back at claims of leadership in interference.

“I’m coming to the rostrum to hopefully once and for all nail this lie that somehow the Executive statement was designed to close down debate and discussion on this issue,” he said.

He added that Unite was at the forefront of open debate on Brexit and 26,000 of the union’s members had responded to consultation on the issue.

But he added that many Labour supporters had voted remain.

“We need those people to be voting Labour,” he said.

Marc Winsland (Dundee) accused the single market campaigners of behaving like the SNP.

He said “I find it ironic that members of this party, people in this room, would lecture Nicola Sturgeon about accepting the referendum result, whilst wishing we would ignore one ourselves.”

But Labour’s Scottish MEP Catherine Stihler said single market membership would ensure peoples’ jobs are kept safe and workplaces are protected.

She added: “Do what you can in the name of working people and that is to remain part of the single market and customs union.”

The Scottish Executive Committee motion was eventually passed overwhelmingly after a show of hands among delegates showed a clear majority in favour.

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