Scottish Labour moderates are seething over what they regard as a big betrayal of their anti-independence credentials, raising fears they could lose all seven Scottish seats in the election.
“As well as being wrong, Labour’s position on facilitating a referendum on the break-up of the UK is terrible political strategy,” said McDougall.
On Friday, Corbyn said a referendum was “not necessary or desirable” but refused to rule out a second independence vote under a Labour government.
Adding fuel to the fire, Conservative minister Michael Gove said Corbyn was “in bed with the SNP” and could hand the nationalists a second independence poll.
Nicola Sturgeon said she was confident Corbyn would grant a second independence referendum. Yesterday, the first minister the country was “in touching distance of independence”.
One leading Westminster Labour candidate said: “The leadership would have us believe that by diluting our anti-independence position, somehow former Labour voters who have gone over to the nationalist side will return. This is utterly mistaken.”
Last night, some senior Labour figures declined to publicly attack Corbyn’s referendum volte-face for fear of being seen to be “disloyal” during the general election campaign.
However, they claimed that the affair illustrated the weakness of the position of Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard who, despite his loyalty to Corbyn, has secured little in return of benefit to his party.
Following Labour’s disastrous showing at the European elections in May, when the party lost both of its MEPs and slumped to fifth in the polls, Leonard’s future will be on the line if the party loses most, or all, of its Westminster seats next month.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives have turned their fire on the Brexit Party, which has threatened to contest every Scottish seat.
The Scottish Tories said the move risks turning Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage into “Nicola Sturgeon’s little helper”.
A senior Scottish Tory source said: “Unionist Scots know they need to stand together at this election to stop the SNP’s independence referendum. They also know that the only way to do that is to vote Scottish Conservative. Nigel Farage doesn’t seem to get that. He’s putting his ego before the Union.”
While the Tories believe they will not lose constituencies directly to the Brexit Party, they are worried that any leakage of votes to Farage could swing the balance against them in some of the 13 seats they won in 2017.
The Brexit Party came second in May’s European elections, polling nearly 15% of the vote. The Brexit Party was unavailable for comment.
- In West Dunbartonshire and Helensburgh and Argyll, the SNP will have a tough time holding on to the seats held by Martin Docherty-Hughes and Brendan O’Hara if only because so many local jobs are dependent on the Clyde Submarine Base at Faslane and the Nationalists are opposed to nuclear weapons. The other parties have been slow to declare who their candidates are, although Labour will have Jean Anne Mitchell wearing their red rosette and the Conservatives Sally Page, who is the only Tory with any political profile up to this point in time. Bill Heaney, Editor, The Democrat