Left-wing Scots are joining the SNP because of a lack of “enthusiasm” for Jeremy Corbyn north of the border, Labour’s shadow chancellor has said.
John McDonnell admitted he thought Owen Smith won the majority of votes from Scottish Labour members, despite Mr Corbyn comfortably seeing off his challenger with 62% of ballots cast across the UK backing him.
A tiny sub-sample of a YouGov exit poll on the day of the contest had suggested the disparity and, despite the leader’s campaign in Scotland denying the London MP had been defeated north of the border, his closest ally in the House of Commons said he thought the survey was “right”.
Asked on ITV’s Peston programme why Mr Corbyn was not cutting through in Scotland, Mr McDonell said: “Well, in Scotland there hasn’t been the surge in membership and enthusiasm that we’ve had in the rest of the country.
“Largely because a lot of the younger people and others went to the SNP, even on the left went to the SNP. So it’s going to take a time to win that back.
“But we’re beginning to, it’s interesting, this week we won our first by-election in Scotland from the SNP in Coatbridge. Elaine Smith, used to be the local MSP, strong Corbyn supporter, ran a campaign there with the local pro-Corbyn candidate and we won it back from the SNP.
“So we’re beginning to see a gradual, I think, return – but it’s going to take us a while.”
Despite being dominated across the UK as a whole, Mr Smith’s team is confident it won comfortably in Scotland.
But Neil Findlay, chair of Scottish Labour for Jeremy, said: “The Scottish sample for this poll was 51 members. That’s fewer people than I phoned – never mind the thousands of others we called during the campaign.
“Our results were starkly different – they came in at 60\40 for Jeremy and we were quite cautious about how we registered support.
“The Scottish figures in this poll has a margin of error a margin of error of about plus or minus 15%. It’s meaningless – Scottish labour voted for Jeremy, just like anywhere else.”
Results will be known in the coming days.
Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish Labour leader, publicly backed Mr Smith and was criticised by several figures on the hard left of the party in the aftermath of his defeat, despite calls for unity from Mr Corbyn himself.
It has also emerged that the UK leader tried to delay plans to give the Scottish party greater autonomy at a private meeting on Saturday night, although he was defeated and the proposal will be put to conference delegates on Tuesday.
An SNP spokesman said: “We already knew that Kezia Dugdale believed that a Corbyn victory meant handing power to the Tories for a generation, but she must be tearing her hair out as the London leadership blatantly undermine her authority like this.
“Labour are completely and irreparably divided from top to bottom – and this division is the greatest gift the Tories could ever ask for.”