The shadow Scottish secretary has said “all bets are off” regarding Labour’s chances in next year’s Holyrood elections.
Ian Murray, the only Labour MP in Scotland, told the PA news agency that there could be a “re-calibration” in the priorities of Scottish voters following the coronavirus outbreak.
The perspective of the Scottish electorate could change following the pandemic, the Edinburgh South MP believes, shifting away from the constitutional issues which have featured in recent elections north of the border.
He said: “I feel that what this crisis has done from a political perspective is re-calibrated everyone’s focus on what’s important.
“That’s about community, public services, the security of the world of work, the fragility of the economy, education, what’s most important to families and businesses across the country.
“What this crisis hasn’t shown, is that arguments around the constitution help anyone.”
Mr Murray said the Scottish Labour Party would need to do three things to boost their chances in the poll.
Firstly, they would need to be clear on their position on Scottish independence, along with providing an alternative – with senior party figures in Scotland and the rest of the UK favouring a federal style of governance.
They would also need to “relentlessly expose” why the Scottish Labour Party was against the idea of independence.
The shadow Scottish secretary said that Scottish leader Richard Leonard had a “real opportunity” in next year’s election with a new deputy leader in Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie and a new leadership at UK level.
He added: “The conversations I’ve had with various people in the Scottish Labour Party has shown everyone is up for that fight.”
At December’s election, Labour dropped six seats north of the border on a night that saw the Tories race to an 80-seat majority, a result Mr Murray said was the fault of UK leaders and not Mr Leonard.
He said: “Was Richard responsible for this campaign? You can argue strongly that he wasn’t, for a number of reasons.”
One of those reasons, according to the MP, was the intervention of John McDonnell during the summer of 2019, which saw the then shadow chancellor say a Labour government would not block a second vote on independence despite the anti-referendum position of Scottish Labour.
Another cause of the loss in Scotland, he said, was the lack of clarity from Jeremy Corbyn on whether he would do a deal with the SNP.
Mr Murray said: “I don’t think that was ruled out by the UK Labour Party as quickly and as emphatically as it should have been.”