FORMER chancellor Alistair Darling has urged Tory supporters to vote Labour in a key constituency north of the border – telling them it is the only way to prevent an “unwanted” and “divisive” independence referendum.
Mr Darling, who led the successful Better Together campaign to keep Scotland in the UK in 2014, urged unionists living in East Renfrewshire to back his former campaign chief.
Blair McDougall, who was Better Together’s campaign director, has been selected as Labour’s candidate to fight the seat in the June 8 General Election.
In the 2015 election, Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP won the seat from the then Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, who had represented the area since 1997.
Prior to that, it had been the safest Conservative constituency in Scotland.
In a letter to voters in East Renfrewshire, Mr Darling said the nationalists had won the seat two years ago because “the votes of the No-voting majority were split, letting the SNP win in East Renfrewshire”.
The former chancellor, who quit as an MP in 2015, told residents: “Too many people who voted No in the independence referendum voted for the Conservatives, who finished in a distant third place, and Labour was narrowly defeated.
“Please don’t risk that this time.
“Use your vote to elect an MP who will oppose Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for another divisive referendum and will tell her to focus on the day job of fixing our schools and hospitals.”
He added: “A vote for the Conservatives won’t stop another divisive referendum. It will simply let the SNP win again.”
Mr McDougdall said he was “delighted” to have the backing of his former boss.
“I am delighted with Alistair Darling’s endorsement. He and I brought together voters from across the political spectrum to stop the SNP in 2014 and I can do it again in East Renfrewshire,” the Labour candidate said.
“A vote for any other party simply risks letting the SNP back in and increases the risk of another unwanted referendum.
“Voting Tory won’t send a message to Nicola Sturgeon, it will only send Theresa May back to Downing Street to deliver a hard Brexit that gives the Nationalists the excuse they are looking for to call another divisive referendum.”
Paul Masterton, the Scottish Conservative candidate for East Renfrewshire, responded: “The Scottish Conservatives outpolled Labour in East Renfrewshire by more than two to one in last week’s council elections.
“That tells voters all they need to know about who can beat the SNP in the area.
“Labour are finished in East Renfrewshire and the local government election results proved that, with the party receiving their lowest share of the vote in 100 years.
“In contrast, the Scottish Conservatives are on the up and stand a real chance of beating the SNP in June.”
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