Unite Scotland boss rejects Labour leadership vote-rigging claims

Richard Leonard, Anas Sarwar (Andrew Cawley, DC Thomson)
Richard Leonard, Anas Sarwar (Andrew Cawley, DC Thomson)

A Scottish union chief claims the organisation is the victim of a “witch-hunt” over accusations of vote-rigging in the Scottish Labour leadership election.

Unite’s Scotland boss, Pat Rafferty, said Unite had not broken the rules in signing up members to vote in the contest, which is open to Scottish Labour members, registered supporters of the party and supporters of attached trade unions.

Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray claimed Unite’s method of signing up affiliate members is “against the rules of the Scottish Labour Party”, adding that it seemed “clumsy and, at worst, being rigged for a particular process”.

Mr Murray is backing Anas Sarwar MSP in the contest sparked by Kezia Dugdale’s resignation as leader in August, while Unite supports his rival Richard Leonard MSP, a former trade union organiser.

Speaking ahead of Unite’s Scottish Policy Conference in Aviemore on Saturday, Mr Rafferty said: “Thousands upon thousands of Unite members have decided to exercise their entirely legitimate right to vote in the Scottish Labour leadership election.

“Unite has not broken a single rule. The Scottish Labour Party’s general secretary has said so on numerous occasions.”

He claimed the union is “being subjected to a sustained witch-hunt from the right wing of the Labour Party”.

Mr Rafferty’s conference speech is expected underline his rejection of the vote-rigging claims and accuse Mr Murray and his allies of trying to “preach unity but practice division”.

He will also call on Unite members to back Mr Leonard and question Mr Sarwar’s decision to send his children to a fee-paying school instead of state education.