If Labour becomes SNP-lite, they will just drive voters away – Alex Cole-Hamilton

The SNP’s election landslide in terms of MP numbers was achieved with 45 per cent of the vote, writes Alex Cole-Hamilton.

Wednesday, 18th December 2019, 6:00 am
Labour's only MP in Scotland, Ian Murray, is a staunch supporter of the Union (Picture: Ian Rutherford)

Somewhere in a ‘Yes café’ in Scotland there sits an activist hungry for independence, who, over the steam of their ‘hazelnat latte’, is thinking “if only Labour would soften their opposition to a second independence referendum, then I might ditch the SNP for Leonard’s crew”.

Except there isn’t and they’re not.

For all the questions currently facing the Scottish Labour party, the answer to none of them is “let’s soften our support for the Union”.

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Yet in the last three days, I have seen no less than two frontbench members of Richard Leonard’s shadow Cabinet suggest it was time to back another divisive Border poll.

“We cannot deny the people of Scotland a second referendum where the majority is calling for it,” wrote Neil Findlay MSP in a polemic assault on his own leader’s policy against indyref2.

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Mr Findlay is many things, but it would appear that he is no mathematician. On Thursday, the SNP successfully gamed the first-past-the-post system and netted something of a landslide, but they only did so on the back of 45 per cent of the popular vote.

More than half of the voting Scottish public backed parties that support the Union and oppose a second referendum.

There was no surge in support for independence, things haven’t materially shifted since the 2014 referendum and there is no offer that Labour could make to those people currently voting SNP which would win them away.

It’s no coincidence that the only Scottish Labour MP returned to Parliament on Thursday was Ian Murray.

He is the only one who has repeatedly and publicly defied attempts by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to hint at a change in course over a second independence referendum.

To offer the public an SNP-lite platform at this stage would only see Scottish Labour drive yet more of their dwindling supporters away.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western