LOTHIANS MSP and new Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has told the party’s four UK candidates to replace Ed Miliband that she will have the final say north of the Border.
Ms Dugdale voiced fears that the independence question could dominate future elections – but warned Nicola Sturgeon that the SNP faces tough questions on issues like education ahead of next year’s Holyrood election.
Ms Dugdale, who celebrated winning the contest by campaigning on the Meadows yesterday, will today visit a nursery in Paisley and will insist that improving the life chances of Scottish youngsters is the key “test” for all politicians in Scotland.
The 33-year-old became the youngest ever leader of the party in Scotland, defeating Eastwood MSP Ken Macintosh for the vacant leadership on Saturday.
Ms Dugdale played down claims of any split with her new deputy Alex Rowley, who had called for a more autonomous Labour Party in Scotland.
“You can be autonomous and still be part of the UK-wide movement,” Ms Dugdale said.
“We’re in exactly the same place when it comes to that.
“Decisions about where we stand in Scotland will be made here in Scotland by us. We can do that and still be part of the UK-wide movement.”
She has pledged to focus her attention on winning next year’s Holyrood election, with all the polls indicating the SNP is on course for another landslide victory.
She aims to turn the focus on the SNP’s domestic record, particularly education, as Nicola Sturgeon prepares to make a major speech on the issue this week.
Ms Dugdale added: “What I fear that is that all our elections in Scotland in future will be defined by how you voted in the referendum.
“So it’s more about whether you are Yes or No rather than where you stand on a political spectrum – whether you’re blue red, yellow, green or anything else.
“It’s my job to appeal to as broad a range of voters as I possibly can. That’s what I intend to do and that’s got to be about being committed to radical change in Scotland and how it works.”
During her visit to a Paisley nursery today she will make clear her commitment to ensuring every child gets the best chance in life, no matter their background.
“The test for everybody in Scottish politics is whether or not we secure a better future for the next generation,” she said.
“Nothing is more important than giving young people in Scotland the chance of a better life, no matter their background.
“Everybody in Scottish politics must be judged by what we do with the powers we have to improve the lives of working-class children.”
The result of the leadership contest was announced on Saturday. Ms Dugdale won 72.1 per cent of the vote, while Mr Macintosh was backed by 27.9 per cent.
Ms Dugdale said she would be making an announcement on her shadow cabinet appointments this week, and she will also seek new people to stand as Labour candidates in the 2016 Holyrood elections. Yesterday she joined shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray and Edinburgh Southern candidate Daniel Johnson on the campaign trail.
Harriet Harman, interim leader of the Labour Party, said the new leadership team face “the historic task of rebuilding our party in Scotland, reconnecting Labour with the people of Scotland and re-energising the links between our party in Scotland, Wales and England”.