Double blow to autonomous Scottish Labour plan

Leader of the Scottish Labour Party Kezia Dugdale delivers her keynote speach in Perth. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Leader of the Scottish Labour Party Kezia Dugdale delivers her keynote speach in Perth. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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SCOTTISH Labour is facing a double blow to its finances, costing the party millions in campaign funds, as a result of leader Kezia Dugdale’s plans to make it autonomous.

Scotland on Sunday has learnt that the SNP is planning to approach trade unions in Scotland to persuade them to switch their political funds to them, arguing that as an autonomous party Scottish Labour no longer automatically gets the affiliation to the UK Labour Party.

Meanwhile English Labour MPs are privately pushing for funding previously sent to Scotland’s – worth £2 million for the election according to party sources – to be used south of the Border instead.

They argue that as an autonomous party with separate membership and candidate control Scottish Labour should be responsible for its own fundraising.

The problems come as both the SNP and Labour are squaring up to the UK government over its Trade Union Bill with fury over the insistence by ministers that they can impose the new laws on Holyrood.

Employment minister Nick Boles said: “We have established, and there is general consent – although it might well be wished otherwise – that employment law is not a devolved policy but a reserved policy, and therefore ministers in the UK government are entitled to exercise those reserved powers in relation to their responsibilities.”

Already Scottish Labour councils, led by Glasgow, have said they will defy the government on issues like check-off – allowing union representatives to do their duties on work time.

Now it is expected that the SNP will also defy the bill.

Glasgow South West MP Chris Stephens, who is the party’s trade union link man and sits on the bill committee, said: “This is an act of first-rate bullying, only a week after describing Scottish MPs as second class, from a third rate administration, without the foresight to realise that they are sprinting towards a constitutional crisis.

“It beggars belief that the UK government do not believe that a legislative consent motion is required for a UK government minister to dictate policy in these areas.”

Scotland on Sunday has learnt that on the back of the Trade Union Bill and Scottish Labour’s plans to become autonomous from the UK party, Stephens is to approach trade union leaders in Scotland to ask them to switch their funding to the SNP.

Under current rules a union will be disaffiliated from Labour if it supports another party. However, questions are now being privately asked about whether this would apply if Scottish Labour becomes autonomous as agreed by Dugdale and UK leader Jeremy Corbyn.