Labour joined with the Lib Dems and Tories to campaign against Scottish independence in 2014.
05 March 2022
Scottish Labour’s deputy leader has said the party would run a “distinctive campaign” in any future vote on independence.
Labour joined with the Tories and Lib Dems during the referendum campaign in 2014 to form Better Together – a partnership which some have suggested contributed to the decline of the party’s fortunes in Scotland.
Speaking at a fringe event during the Scottish Labour conference in Glasgow, Jackie Baillie said the move was a mistake and one the party was not likely to repeat in a future vote.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she aims to hold another referendum by the end of next year but stonewalling from Westminster, as well as the possibility of a Holyrood-sanctioned referendum ending in court, has meant the timing is uncertain.
“We have been telling everyone for years that the Tories are terrible, then we co-operated with them,” she said in response to a question from a delegate.
“Don’t get me wrong, there was a greater issue at stake – which is the future of the United Kingdom – but I think we were wrong to have done that.
“I think we should have run distinctive campaigns.
“That’s what we chose to do at the time – I think we would run distinctive campaigns in the future.”
In response, SNP MSP Jackie Dunbar said: “While Scottish Labour continue to prop up Tories in council chambers across Scotland, Jackie Baillie’s words mean nothing.
“Since 2014 they have continued to work hand in hand with the Tories to lock the SNP out of councils in Aberdeen and North Lanarkshire, with Jackie Baillie herself supporting the reinstatement of the ‘Aberdeen nine’.”
She added: “At the end of the day Scottish Labour can campaign alongside whoever they want to, but what they have no right to do is deny Scotland the right to choose it’s future in an independence referendum.
“The SNP has a cast-iron mandate to hold another referendum and will do so before the end of 2023.”
While Scottish Tory constitution spokesman Donald Cameron said the comment showed Labour’s “weakness” on the union.
“Ashamed of the success of Better Together, this comment shows how far Labour have moved away from their pro-UK past,” he said.
“Time and time again Labour have shown that they cannot be trusted to stand up to the SNP when it comes to independence.”
Meanwhile, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting reiterated the party’s stance that it would not enter into any pact with the SNP following the next election.
Speaking during the same event, Mr Streeting said: “There will certainly be no progressive alliance with the SNP – they’re a party that wants to fundamentally break our country.”
He added: “No one should look at the SNP and see our friends – they are not.
“As for this question which I’m sure is going to come up again and again and again in the run up to the next general election, especially if the polls look tight and Labour might be the largest party but not a majority – people say ‘are you going to do a deal with the SNP?’
“Absolutely not. We don’t need to.”
Of Mr Streeting’s comments, Mr Cameron said: “The reality is that Labour are already in alliance with the SNP – in six local councils across Scotland.
“Despite their claims, Labour are more willing to work with nationalists than unionists, as they step further away from their pro-UK roots.”