Labour veteran Jackie Baillie says it was “wrong” for her party to work with the Tories during the Better Together alliance – and claimed the party could run a “distinctive” campaign in any future independence referendum.
Speaking at the Scottish Labour conference on Saturday, the party’s deputy leader admitted her colleagues had paid the price for the pact with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
Ms Baillie was a director of the campaign body ahead of the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.
She said: “We have been telling everybody for years that the Tories are terrible and we co-operated with them.
“Don’t get me wrong, there was a greater issue at stake – which was the future of the United Kingdom – but I think we were wrong to have done that.”
Asked during a Labour Friends of Scotland fringe event about the party’s fortunes since 2014, Ms Baillie suggested it could take a different approach if the independence question was ever put to voters again.
“I think we should have run distinctive campaigns,” she said.
“Don’t get me wrong, that’s what we chose to do at the time.
“I think we would run distinctive campaigns in the future. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t agree ultimately on the objective.”
A seismic difference
Ms Baillie said Scottish Labour continued as if it was business as usual after the referendum and failed to reflect on the “seismic difference within the country”.
“It was the day after the referendum that struck me the most,” she said.
“The Labour Party in Scotland carried on as if it was business as usual. We failed to take a step back and reflect on the seismic difference within the country.
“All this nonsense from the SNP about civic nationalism and a great debate, it was rubbish.
“The Labour Party hall in Dumbarton was torched. It burned down during that referendum.
“There was graffiti put up about killing people who voted a particular way during that referendum. My own car window was stoned and shattered during that referendum.
“There was nothing civic joyous about what we went through. And we failed to reflect that back to the country and we carried on as normal.
“So I think we need to be very careful about what we do.”
Parties point to coalitions across Scotland
Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Donald Cameron described Ms Baillie’s comments as “yet another sign of Labour’s weakness when it comes to 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.
“Already in coalition with the SNP in six Scottish councils, Labour continue to blur the line between themselves and the nationalists.”
Meanwhile, Aberdeen Donside MSP Jackie Dunbar said Jackie Baillie’s words “mean nothing” while Scottish Labour continues to “prop up” Tories in council chambers across Scotland.
“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 said.
“They’ve apparently learnt nothing from their countless election defeats and, seemingly locked into a contest on who can out-unionist the other, Scottish Labour and the Scottish Tories have continually proved themselves to be completely out of touch with public opinion.”