Scottish Labour should support indyref2, says former union boss

The party has always been steadfastly against another vote, despite dissent from some MSPs.

Scottish Labour should support indyref2, says former union boss Peter Byrne via PA Media
McCluskey: Calling for IndyRef2 support.

Scottish Labour should support calls for a second referendum on independence, regardless of its position on the constitution, former union boss Len McCluskey has said.

The party has always been steadfastly against another vote, despite dissent from some MSPs.

But Mr McCluskey, who was the general secretary of Unite for a decade and a major figure in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, said the SNP “have stolen the radical clothes of Scottish Labour”.

“We’ve been telling Labour in Scotland since 2007 – when a certain Nicola Sturgeon won a seat in Glasgow – to wake up and smell the coffee,” he said on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme.

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“The reality is the SNP have stolen the radical clothes of Scottish Labour and Scottish Labour have lost the trust of ordinary working people.”

To win back that trust, the former union leader said: “They’re going to have to battle really strongly; in my opinion they should support a second referendum on independence, what they actually do when that referendum comes can still be debated.”

He added: “The truth of the matter is that, in the opinion polls, it doesn’t appear to matter who the leader of the Scottish party is, we’re not making any headway.

“Labour has to do something imaginative and radical, because it’s not like the SNP are being successful in public services or education or health and yet Labour can’t put a glove on them at the moment.”

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Scottish Labour dropped two seats in this year’s election, down to 22, although polls had predicted they would fall further.

The showing comes despite positive polling numbers for leader Anas Sarwar, who had been in post for less than three months at the time of the vote.

Meanwhile, Mr McCluskey weighed in on the levels of industrial action being seen in Scotland, with trains set to be cancelled during the COP26 climate conference if a deal is not reached with the RMT union by 5pm on Wednesday.

“I’ve never met a worker who likes being out on strike – workers take strike action because of that frustration, because they feel there’s a sense of injustice,” he said.

“It’s easily resolved – around the table the appropriate individuals could come up with the type of offer where the workforce feels they are being respected.”

He added there is always a “dilemma” when public service workers take strike action, because “innocent members of the public suffer”.

“It’s why, in my experience, workers are always that much more careful about making that decision.”