Scottish Labour ‘has fewer than 13,000 members’

Scottish Labour are attempting  to entice more members to join the party. Picture: TSPL
Scottish Labour are attempting to entice more members to join the party. Picture: TSPL
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MEMBERSHIP of the Labour Party in Scotland has slumped to fewer than 13,000, it has been claimed.

In an article published by the New Statesman on whether Scottish Labour should effectively split from the UK party and go it alone, it was reported that ‘fewer than 13,000 people are members of the Labour Party in Scotland’.

One chair of a Scottish constituency told the magazine that ‘direct debit cancellations outnumber new members by two to one.’

Last year, former Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy estimated the party’s membership at ‘around 20,000’ during an appearance on STV’s political programme Scotland Tonight.

At the same time, membership of pro-independence parties such as the SNP and the Scottish Greens was rocketing.

The Nationalists have climbed to well over 100,000 members while the Greens have between 9,000 and 10,000 members.

Recent figures have shown that Labour’s highest membership north of the Border is in the North Ayrshire & Arran constituency, where the party can count just under 600 as members.

Acting leader Iain Gray has urged voters that share Labour’s values to join the party - allowing them to vote in the leadership election and be eligible for selection in forthcoming elections.

At last month’s election, SNP candidate Patricia Gibson won 28,641 votes in the constituency - 53 per cent - and nearly double that of Labour incumbent Katy Clark, who polled 15,068 votes (28 per cent).

Shortly after last month’s general election, ousted MP Ian Davidson claimed Labour in Scotland ‘owed an apology to the party and the labour movement throughout the rest of Britain for its abject failure’.

The former Glasgow South West MP added: “For a long time, Labour in Scotland has been blighted by the four C’s: complacency, conservatism, cronyism and careerism.

“We need to engage more with the community – when I first became a councillor, Labour had members in all the tenants’ associations, residents’ groups, local unions and every other organisation where local people were to be found.

“People saw Labour membership, membership of a tenants’ association and membership of a union as being different facets of the same struggle to improve the lives of ordinary working people.”

Mr Davidson also claimed that party membership figures were distorted, adding: “We do not even have the numbers to mount substantial doorstep campaigns.

“No wonder party membership figures are a secret – so low as to be embarrassing, even including the bogus members recruited under the “buy a branch” scheme, who are essentially sleepers, only activated for selection conferences.”

Last month, as Mr Murphy delivered a speech confirming he would be stepping down, he took aim at Unite union leader Len McCluskey, saying: “The Labour party’s problem is not the link with trade unions, or even the relationship with Unite members - far from it.

“It is the destructive behaviour of one high-profile trade unionist.

“Sometimes people see it as a badge of honour to have Mr McCluskey’s support. I kind of see it as a kiss of death to be supported by that type of politics.”

And Mr Murphy’s predecessor Johann Lamont resigned in October of last year, saying: “The Labour Party must recognise that the Scottish party has to be autonomous and not just a branch office of a party based in London.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Labour said: “The radical reforms passed at the weekend mean we can attract many more people to the Labour Party. For just £3 people can get involved in our leadership contest and help us transform Scotland.”