MacAskill urges a ‘Progressive alliance’ with UK Labour and SNP

Kenny MacAskill. Picture; Julie Bull
Kenny MacAskill. Picture; Julie Bull
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A FORMER SNP minister has urged the UK Labour leadership to listen to internal party calls for a “progressive alliance” with the SNP to evict the Conservatives from government.

Kenny MacAskill, Scottish Government justice secretary and Edinburgh Eastern MSP throughout the SNP’s first two terms, welcomed shadow Scottish secretary Dave Anderson’s suggestion that Labour should be open to an SNP coalition.

Mr Anderson, an English MP, provoked a backlash from Scottish Labour when he suggested an SNP deal may be “the price that we have to pay to prevent another rabid right-wing Tory government”.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said a deal with the nationalists “just wouldn’t work”, and Mr Anderson’s predecessor, Ian Murray, said advocates of an SNP deal demonstrate “a lack of understanding of the political dynamic in Scotland”.

But Mr MacAskill, a long-standing ally of former SNP leader and current foreign affairs spokesman Alex Salmond, said Mr Anderson’s comments are “sensible and deserve wider support both within his own party and beyond”.

Mr MacAskill said: “An alliance doesn’t equate with an amalgamation or even a coalition.

“It’s simply an agreement to defeat the Tories and deliver some shared objectives.”

The ongoing divisions within Labour “could see the Tories in power for decades” but a Labour-SNP alliance could reverse austerity, scrap Trident, introduce proportional voting, hand Holyrood the right to call a referendum and more, he said.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon urged Labour to consider a coalition as part of her 2015 general election campaign, but was rebuffed following a Tory ad campaign including one featuring Ed Miliband in Mr Salmond’s pocket.

Mr MacAskill said: “The Tories had played on English fears, promoted by the SNP, of making Labour dance to a Scottish tune.

“But, this would be an alliance not a diktat, and with mutual benefit.

“Moreover, winning 56 seats once again will be hard and, in the absence of an early second independence referendum, protecting Scotland requires it.

“Its rejection by the current leadership of Scottish Labour simply shows their narrow political sectarianism, as well as their irrelevancy.”

Scottish Labour business manager James Kelly said: “Scottish Labour have been clear – we do not back a UK government deal with the SNP.

“Kenny MacAskill’s energy would be better spent persuading SNP ministers to back Labour’s plans to tax the richest, a policy he supports but said nothing about in government.”