THE next leader of Scottish Labour has been challenged to say whether they would work with the Tories to stop the SNP delivering independence.
In a double-edged offer, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said he would be willing to work with Labour to protect the Union, and asked if the feeling was mutual.
The challenge was issued to Anas Sarwar and Monica Lennon as nominations closed in the contest to replace Richard Leonard as Scottish Labour leader.
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Mr Sarwar and Ms Lennon both told BBC Radio Scotland today that a second independence referendum was not a priority given the Covid pandemic and its economic damage.
Mr Sarwar, who led Scottish Labour’s No campaign in 2014, said he wanted the next parliament to focus on Covid recovery not constitutional wrangling.
However Ms Lennon also told the that she believed the people out to decide whether to hold Indyref2, and that Labour should advocate greater devolution as a third ballot option.
Scottish Labour happy to rule out a sensational deal with Douglas Ross. Or any kind of deal, for that matter. pic.twitter.com/krCkaEbb8P
— Richard Leonard (@LabourRichard) November 21, 2020
Mr Leonard, who quit last week after three anonymous years and two election disasters, said in November that he was “happy to rule out” a deal with Mr Ross.
The Scottish Tory leader said today: “The SNP are pushing for indyref2 this year. Just days ago, they launched a new task force to campaign for independence, even while we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
“It’s no surprise. Every year since 2014, the SNP have demanded indyref2 and the Scottish Conservatives have been resolutely against it, while Labour have been consistently weak against the SNP.”
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Mr Ross added: “I’ve been very clear that I would work with Labour against the SNP. A unionist coalition is something I would be part of, if it meant stopping the SNP.
“Voters will want to know if the Labour leadership candidates will put the Union first or their own tribal politics first.”
The Tories pointed out that Labour are in coalition with the SNP in 6 of Scotland’s 32 councils, but Labour councillors in Aberdeen had been suspended for years for forming an alliance with Tories in 2017.