Scottish Labour leader comes under pressure to reassure no alliance with rightwing Brexit business group funding ‘Better Together 2’
SCOTTISH LABOUR leader Kezia Dugdale wavered on whether her party would feel comfortable joining the Scottish Tories and their Brexit allies in another version of the Better Together group which fought for the unionist side in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
Speaking at a fringe Daily Record event at her party’s spring conference in Perth, she emphasised her belief that there would not be a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Her comments come a day after two by-elections in England where the UK Labour party managed to hold on to Stoke but suffered a surprise defeat to the UK Tories in the Copeland constituency.
“There won't be another referendum. It’s not happening.” Kezia Dugdale
On the topic of a second referendum, Dugdale said: “Look, there isn't going to be one. The people had their choice and they said no. We in Labour have to be focused on putting pressure on an SNP government badly mismanaging and cutting our NHS in Scotland and getting away with it.
“Now if I am wrong and there is a referendum. I can’t see us ‘getting into bed with the Tories’, I don't think that was a question before [in the 2014 referendum] anyway. There won't be another referendum. It’s not happening.”
Pressed further on the question of whether she was concerned about the prospect of a group of wealthy pro-Brexit businessmen attached to the Scottish Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) funding a new group to fight for the union, she said: “Haven’t read about that.”
Despite being urged by delegates from Glasgow and Perth to solidly condemn and rule out any such shared platform in the future, Dugdale dodged the question and instead focused on her plans for a fully federal UK.
“I don't think it’s a question of platforms, but ideas.” Kezia Dudgale
The Scottish Labour leader’s reluctance to issue a full rebuke comes after a source from the mysterious ‘Constitutional Research Council’ (CRC) told the Herald that the businessmen who funded it are preparing to invest into a war chest towards a new campaign to fight Scottish independence.
During the EU referendum, pro-Brexit funders sent an amount of £425,000 to CRC, a secretive unionist thinktank. The CRC then used the money given by the Brexit businessmen to financially support DUP figures who supported the Leave campaign. It has also been revealed that the thinktank is currently headed by Richard Cook who is the former chair of the Scottish Tories.
Debate simultaneously has raged at the Scottish Labour conference hall on the consequences of teaming up with the Tories in the last independence referendum, with speakers rejecting the idea of a joint platform next time.
Dugdale finally added: “I don't think it’s a question of platforms, but ideas.”
“This shadowy group exploited a loophole to anonymously fund a campaign that now threatens to drag Scotland out of Europe against our will.” James Dornan
The SNP responded to the news about the pro-Brexit group demanding transparency about its donors and any plans to oppose independence.
Commenting on the activities of the CRC, SNP MSP James Dornan said: “This is a staggering revelation. This shadowy group exploited a loophole to anonymously fund a campaign that now threatens to drag Scotland out of Europe against our will – and they did this purely as they believed it would be bad for independence.
“Now they’re promising to bankroll the anti-independence campaign in any future referendum. Unfortunately for them, they won’t be able to funnel money through Northern Irish politicians to remain anonymous. But any future anti-independence campaign will be tainted by being bankrolled by a group who deliberately undermined Scotland’s interests and long-term economic wellbeing to defend the union at all costs.”
The Scottish Labour party conference will continue in Perth until Sunday 26 February.
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