Socialist Worker

An anti-austerity message is key for the Scottish Labour Party’s new leader

The resignation of Kezia Dugdale as Scottish Labour leader is a chance for a shift to the left, writes Nick Clark

Issue No. 2570

Corbyn was well supported when he visited Scotland during the general election campaign

Corbyn was well supported when he visited Scotland during the general election campaign (Pic: Duncan Brown)


Labour Party members in Scotland will soon have the chance to elect a left wing leader who supports Jeremy Corbyn.

This follows former leader Kezia Dugdale’s surprise resignation last week.

Richard Leonard, backed by unions and the left, will take on “moderate” Anas Sarwar in the election to lead the Scottish Labour Party.

No other candidates had been announced as Socialist Worker went to press.

Dudgale claimed that she had left Scottish Labour in good shape, pointing to the party’s improved results in this year’s general election.

Labour took six seats from the SNP in June’s general election, having been reduced to just one MP in Scotland in 2015.

Many Labour voters switched to the SNP after the 2014 independence referendum because Labour had campaigned with the Tories. Tony Blair’s New Labour had also alienated many voters.

But Labour’s recovery in Scotland was down to Corbyn’s leadership. Corbyn ran an election campaign that promised a radically different kind of politics and involved mass rallies that drew in thousands of people.

In contrast Scottish Labour under Dugdale ran a deeply uninspiring campaign concentrating on an anti-independence message.

Change

After the election the Campaign for Socialism, the Scottish equivalent of Momentum, said that “Scottish Labour is holding Corbyn back—change is needed”

Its analysis showed that the average increase in the Labour vote across Britain was 5,883 per constituency but in Scotland it was only 550.

Launching his leadership bid, Leonard pointed to Corbyn’s campaign as the reason for Scottish Labour’s revival.

“Almost 13 million people voted for a Labour vision which committed us to extending public ownership, ending austerity, properly investing in our public services and redistributing wealth and power to the many from the few,” he wrote.

Leonard is a former GMB union official and is said to be backed by Corbyn.

Sarwar backed Owen Smith in the Labour leadership contest last year. And in an article last Sunday he praised Dugdale’s “radical manifesto”.

Dugdale’s leadership held Labour back in Scotland. Labour still has a considerable amount of ground to make up.

A Scottish leader that promises an end to austerity—including by Scottish Labour councils—and offers a vision of hope can challenge the SNP.

At the very least Labour must acknowledge the right of the Scottish parliament to decide if and when there should be another independence referendum.


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