Scottish Labour’s deputy leader has called for “inflammatory rhetoric” on independence to be ditched just days after his boss put the constitution at the heart of a major speech.
Writing for The Courier, Alex Rowley argued the political focus in Scotland should be on how to make Brexit work for people north of the border and park referendum re-run talk entirely until that is settled.
In her keynote speech to the Labour conference in Liverpool, Kezia Dugdale spent focussed heavily on talking up her pro-Union credentials.
Mr Rowley said he would obey her order to vote against any proposal for a second vote on Scotland leaving the UK but urged “all parties in Scotland” to focus on the impact of June’s vote to leave the EU, which his leader only mentioned in the context of independence.
He wrote: “In post Brexit Scotland there is a real opportunity to set a new vision and new settlement more akin to home rule within the UK, more like a federal union that is part of a revised UK constitutional settlement whilst retaining the best aspects of a positive relationship with Europe.
“Yet to date, the SNP talk only of the benefits of being in Europe and the disadvantages of being in the UK whilst the Tories talk only of the benefits of being in the UK and disadvantages of being in Europe. So Scotland is in danger of being stuck for years trapped between these two polar opposites.
“Both are playing a dangerous game, and it is becoming abundantly clear that neither are the wiser as to what to do. The UK is a sovereign state in Brexit turmoil and in Scotland we must not allow a second referendum to continue to be the distraction that creates divisions and removes our focus from finding the best Brexit deal for our country.
“It is absolutely crucial that all parties in Scotland focus the debate on Brexit setting forth a case to protect working people’s employment rights, pay and pensions and the role of trade unions.”
Alex Neil, a former SNP cabinet secretary, has said Nicola Sturgeon should abandon a second referendum, fight for Scotland’s interests in Brexit win “neo-independence” by gaining major new powers.
Mr Rowley, who will host the first in a series of Brexit discussion meetings on October 20 in Dunfermline’s Firestation Create Art Gallery, called for parties to work together and hold “an inclusive discussion” about what is best for Scotland rather than being “divided between those who are described as Unionists and those described as Nationalists”.
He added: “The key point is that we must step back from divisive and inflammatory rhetoric and ensure Scotland is at the table leading the debate on what Brexit means for our country and for the UK.”