YVETTE Cooper has said she opposes the creation of a separate Scottish Labour party, stating that she wants it to “stay as part of the same party” north and south of the Border because of its “shared values” across the UK.
Her statement puts her at odds with leadership rival Andy Burnham who said “there is a case” for the Scottish Labour party operating completely separately north of the Border to allow it to have different policy positions on issues such as Trident.
Winning in Scotland is close to my heart. I was born in Inverness, although I grew up in England. And the idea of deep division breaks my heartYvette Cooper
Ms Cooper said she would oppose such a move if she were elected UK leader, despite calls from figures in Scottish Labour for it to run its affairs entirely separate from the party in London in the aftermath of the SNP rout on 7 May.
The shadow home secretary ruled out backing for a fully independent Scottish Labour party during a visit to Edinburgh and Glasgow on Friday, when she suggested such a shake-up would weaken progressive politics across the UK.
Ms Cooper met former Labour voters who backed the SNP on 7 May, as well as holding talks with MSPs, councillors and Scottish Labour leadership contender Kezia Dugdale, who she met at Holyrood.
Inverness-born Ms Cooper was the first of the five UK Labour leadership candidates to come to Scotland since last month’s disastrous election result for the party, with shadow health secretary Mr Burnham due to make a visit next week.
However, Ms Cooper, the MP for the West Yorkshire seat of Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, set out her opposition to a breakaway Scottish Labour party after Mr Burnham said: “There is a case for that and I will look at that.”
Ms Cooper said she wanted Labour to remain a UK-wide party and claimed that the SNP surge in Scotland and the Tory triumph at UK level on 7 May had created deep divisions north and south of the Border.
She said: “We need to draw on the values of Labour to do this and as someone who represents a constituency in the Yorkshire coalfields, but who was born in Inverness, it breaks my heart to see the divisions between us.
“There are a lot of areas which the Scottish Labour party needs to lead and take decisions on.
“Scottish Labour is a valuable part of the UK party and I want it to stay as part of the same party because of our enduring values. We share these values. Scottish Labour must have a strong voice, but I want to make sure we stay as part of the same party with the same shared values.”
Labour MSP Neil Findlay previously said it “makes sense” for the party in Scotland to be fully independent from that the party at UK level to allow it to have different positions on key issues like opposition to Trident and tax.
Meanwhile, Ms Cooper warned that unless Labour wins back seats from the SNP in 2020, the Tories would be able to run the same “deliberately divisive” campaign aimed at scaring English voters about the prospect of the Nationalists propping up her party in government.
She said: “In the end we have got to have an optimistic vision for Scotland and must not underestimate the scale of Labour’s defeat. The Tory campaign was deliberately divisive and really bad for the Union. Labour has to have a really robust politics and campaign that makes sure such an approach never wins again.”
Ms Cooper is standing against Mr Burnham, shadow care minister Liz Kendall, shadow international development secretary Mary Creagh and the leftwing Labour backbench MP Jeremy Corbyn in the contest to succeed Ed Miliband.