Clockwise: Jackie Baillie; First Minister Nicola Sturgeon; the Holyrood parliament; Labour leader Richard Leonard and Ruth Davidson.
By Democrat reporter
The Labour-supporting Daily Record’s investigative reporter Paul Hutcheon has revealed details of “a damning report into Scottish Labour” which is said to flag up Richard Leonard’s low profile and praise the “highly effective” Nicola Sturgeon.
The presentation, put together by a pro-UK think tank linked to Gordon Brown, the former Labour Prime Minister, warned the party is in “peril” and claimed the “scarring could be permanent”.
It added that Labour’s federalism policy has “limited cut-through” with the Scottish electorate.
On Richard Leonard’s watch as leader, Labour came fifth in the European elections and they lost six of their seven Westminster seats at the general election.
Party figures believe he has failed in the job and want him to stand down.
A “strategic overview” of Scottish Labour by Our Scottish Future (OSF) was circulated to Labour MSPs and reveals what it claims is “the full extent of the party’s problems”.
The report, leaked to the Daily Record, claimed Scottish Labour is in “peril” and noted the polling over the last 15 months has “consistently indicated seat losses”.
The think tank also claimed the SNP had “stolen Labour’s clothes” on policy and warned the party is a “niche brand online”.
In what will likely be interpreted as a criticism of Leonard, the report claimed that Scottish Labour politicians have a “limited audience” online.
As evidence, a chart showed that Leonard’s reach on social media comes nowhere near the levels enjoyed by senior SNP figures.
The report also claimed the SNP has six times the membership of Scottish Labour and four times the spending power.
On the First Minister, the report stated: “In Nicola Sturgeon, Labour are facing a popular and highly effective politician who is capable of consistently elevating her party.”
It also cited Panelbase polling which showed Sturgeon with a net approval rating of +57 among 2019 Labour voters.
On solutions, the report said that winning younger and female voters will be “particularly critical to achieving Labour’s ceiling”.
It also noted Scottish Labour’s target voters are “highly transactional and pragmatic”, adding: “There is space for a policy-led narrative that demonstrates how the SNP’s separatism and wrong priorities for Scotland has degraded public services.”
However, the report said of Labour’s support for federalism: “Labour’s preferred constitutional option of Federalism has limited cut-through with the population or buy-in from either side of the debate.”
On the next Holyrood election, the report flagged up the “two big strategic prizes” as overtaking the Tories and depriving the pro-independence parties of a majority.
SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown said: “So long as Scottish Labour remain hitched to Westminster control of Scotland they are doomed – regardless of who is in charge.
“They have long since lost the trust of the people of Scotland for standing shoulder to shoulder with their Better Together Tory pals while their promises of a mythical federalism have been broken so often no one is gullible enough to believe them anymore.
“Under Nicola Sturgeon’s effective government Scotland continues to forge ahead while Scottish Labour is stuck in the past, fighting amongst themselves and doomed to total irrelevance.”
Tory MSP Dean Lockhart said: “Labour are a shadow of their former selves and this analysis by a Gordon Brown-affiliated think tank confirms that the Scottish Conservatives are the only party capable of challenging the SNP.
“Under Douglas Ross as Scottish Conservative leader and with Ruth [Davidson] back to challenge Nicola Sturgeon at Holyrood, the Scottish Conservatives have the vision and energy to build a brighter future for Scotland as part of the UK.”
A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “This week a no confidence motion proposed by Scottish Labour has forced a U-turn over the SQA results fiasco, and the Education Secretary’s future is hanging in the balance.
“When the SNP Government is presiding over such a mess everyone in Scottish Labour must be united in tackling those failures and supporting the fight for a fairer economy, workers’ rights and public ownership of our public services.
“Richard Leonard is clear that he will be leading Scottish Labour into next year’s Scottish Parliament election on a platform to rebuild Scotland after the damage of COVID-19 by creating a National Care Service and a quality Jobs Guarantee Scheme.”
- Jackie Baillie, the MSP for the Dumbarton constituency, which includes Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Helensburgh and the Lochside, is Labour’s deputy leader in Scotland. The SNP were last week reported to be fielding Toni Giugliano, a Gay and Trans Rights campaigner, against her at the Holyrood elections in May 2021. Editor