Scottish Labour won’t split from UK party, says Corbyn

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn launches a new Arts policy at The Fringe Festival Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh. Aug 25 2016
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn launches a new Arts policy at The Fringe Festival Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh. Aug 25 2016
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Jeremy Corbyn has said he is disappointed to have lost the support of Labour’s leader in Scotland, but he ruled out a split if he continues as national party leader.

Mr Corbyn insisted “the Scottish party is not going to split off from the UK party”, and said he would continue to work with Lothian MSP Kezia Dugdale despite her support for his rival, Owen Smith.

The Labour leader brought his campaign to defend his position to Scotland this week.

Mr Smith accused him of taking Labour backwards in Scotland at a hustings event in Glasgow on Thursday night, after Scottish Labour finished third behind the Conservatives in the Holyrood election in May.

Labour supporters laughed and jeered at the hustings when Mr Smith suggested Ms Dugdale “is doing a brilliant job” in Scotland.

Speaking in Edinburgh yesterday, Mr Corbyn urged Labour supporters to show respect to Ms Dugdale.

He said: “I don’t think anyone should jeer at anyone else. I don’t do that myself and have asked other people not to and made it very, very clear – let’s have an honest, open and respectful debate.”

He deferred questions on whether Ms Dugdale should face a leadership challenge north of the Border.

“It’s not my decision whether she will face a challenge or not, that’s a matter for the Scottish Labour Party and her,” he said.

“I have worked very well with Kezia ever since she was elected to lead. We have been on many campaign visits together, we’ve spoken very often about many aspects of Scottish politics.

“She had the courtesy to tell me that she wasn’t going to be supporting me in this election before she announced her support for Owen Smith. Naturally I’m disappointed in that, but it’s no more than a disappointment.

“I’ll be happy to work with her after this election and we will work together because we’re in the same party, we’re in the Labour Party, we want to see a better society.”

He added: “The Scottish party is not going to split off from the UK party. The party is the Labour Party in Scotland, it is the Scottish Labour Party, and we have a devolved situation where the leader of the Scottish Labour Party is elected by the Labour Party members in Scotland.

“I’m the leader of the UK Labour Party and obviously I have to work in co-operation with the leader of the Scottish party and I’m very happy to do that.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s party conference looks set to go ahead next month after a row over security was resolved.

A question mark had been hanging over the annual gathering after G4S said it was now too late for it to step in and organise protection arrangements for next month’s conference in Liverpool. But Labour’s general secretary Iain McNicol said OCS Group will now carry out the task of providing security at the conference venue.