Independence wins favour of Labour ex-Lord Provost

Eleanor McLaughlin, Blair Jenkins and Dennis Canavan at the Yes Scotland office in Glasgow. Picture: Bill Fleming

Eleanor McLaughlin, Blair Jenkins and Dennis Canavan at the Yes Scotland office in Glasgow. Picture: Bill Fleming

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EDINBURGH’S first female Lord Provost has revealed she will vote for independence.

Former Labour stalwart Eleanor McLaughlin said she was convinced a Yes vote in the referendum was the only way to achieve social justice and benefits for all in “the very rich country that is Scotland”.

Mrs McLaughlin, who was the Capital’s civic head from 1988 until 1992, said devolution had worked well and the next logical step was to become an independent state.

Her declaration comes just weeks after Edinburgh STUC general secretary and former Labour regional councillor Des Loughney revealed he was voting Yes.

He said independence offered a better chance of improved living standards for working people than Westminster’s programme of austerity.

Mrs McLaughlin’s former colleague on Lothian Region, the then-Labour group leader John Mulvey, is also backing a Yes vote.

Mrs McLaughlin, now 76, famously refused to pay the poll tax and was threatened with a warrant sale at her home. Two decades on, she is still vehemently opposed to Westminster policies such as zero-hour contracts and the bedroom tax.

She was also once opposed to devolution because it lacked the powers required by “a proper government” but said she now wanted to go further, She said: “I was against it because I didn’t think government works without proper tax-raising powers.

“That’s what government is all about.

“However, I think the devolved parliament has worked very well.

“One example is the prominent role of women in positions of power today – the Presiding Officer of the Scottish parliament, the Deputy First Minister, and the leaders of Labour and the Tories, and the leader before her. That just couldn’t happen in Westminster.

“I believe that now that devolution has been proved to work, the next logical step has to be independence. And Scotland will become independent.”

After being a member of Labour for about 20 years, Mrs McLaughlin said she left because of Blairite policies.

She said: “I just drifted away, disillusioned with Tony Blair’s New Labour – it did nothing for me.”

And she urged Labour supporters to back independence on September 18.

She said: “For those in the Labour Party, I’d say independence is the quickest way to achieve socialist aspirations, and we certainly would have a much fairer country if we 
run and spent the money we raise in what is a very rich nation.”

Mrs McLaughlin also dismissed some of the Better Together campaign’s arguments as simply scaremongering.

She said: “The idea that a huge insurance company would up-sticks and move south of the Border just because Scotland becomes independent is ridiculous.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com