LABOUR’S extraordinary civil war blew up again yesterday as factions in the Scottish branch clashed over whether or not the party should block indyref2.

Another day of turmoil featured Labour’s Holyrood MSPs attacking their Westminster leadership – against the wishes of Scottish Labour chief Richard Leonard. A former Scottish chairman of the party also blasted MPs and MSPs who support a People’s Vote but oppose indyref2 for their “hypocrisy”.

Nicola Sturgeon summed it up late night with a tweet. “Imagine trying to explain to someone who knows nothing about Scottish politics that the proposition Labour is currently, and very publicly, tearing itself asunder over is as simple as ‘it should be up to the Scottish people to decide Scotland’s future’. Utterly absurd,” she wrote.

The SNP said the Labour Party in Scotland faced being “wiped out completely” if it continues its “anti-democratic” and “increasingly bizarre” stance in opposing a second independence referendum.

READ MORE: Indyref2: Labour in crisis as John McDonnell ignores Richard Leonard

The day’s drama kicked off when the Labour group at Holyrood issued a strongly worded condemnation of shadow chancellor John McDonnell for saying that the UK Labour leadership would leave the choice over whether there should be an independence referendum to “the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish people to decide”.

The National:

It was then revealed by Common Space that the statement had in fact been issued by the group’s leader Jackie Baillie – against the express wishes of the Scottish leader Leonard.

The original statement read: “We deplore any attempts to undermine the official policy position of the Scottish Labour Party and we express serious concerns about an apparent change in Labour’s position on a matter of vital importance to the future of Scotland and of the Scottish Labour Party itself.

“Scottish party policy is very clear – that is opposition to a second independence referendum. There is therefore an urgent need for the UK party leadership to engage constructively with the Scottish party leadership on the issue of the party’s stance on the future of Scotland.

“We are clear Labour’s position on Scotland’s future is a decision for Scottish Labour, which the UK party must accept. We expect all Scottish Labour MPs and MSPs to vote in accordance with party policy.”

READ MORE: Labour MP questions SNP indyref2 mandate in car crash BBC interview

Common Space published a leaked email from Baillie which said: “I have consulted Richard as I am required to do by standing orders, and it is fair to say that he does not want the statement to go out. I believe based on consultation that there is a preference for a clear statement from the group.”

The National:

The SNP needed no second invitation to comment on Labour’s rifts. George Adam MSP said: “Scottish Labour’s position is becoming increasingly bizarre. It’s hard to think of a time in recent years when they’ve been more vocal than this week’s frenzied backlash to the suggestion that people in Scotland should have a choice over their own future.

“The UK leadership recognises that democratic right – why don’t Labour in Scotland? Labour’s position in Scotland is fundamentally anti-democratic. Nobody trusts Scottish Labour to stand up for their interests. That’s why they continue their slide into political irrelevance. If Labour continue to side with the Tories in denying Scotland’s right to choose our own future, then Labour’s fate is well and truly sealed – they’ll be wiped out completely.”

Meanwhile, former Scottish Labour Party chairman Bob Thomson weighed in to support McDonnell’s position. He said it was “a restatement of existing, long-standing Scottish Labour Party policy” dating back to the 1989 Claim of Right, which was signed by every Labour MP – including Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling – except Tam Dalyell and endorsed by the annual conference of the Scottish party.

“This position has never been rescinded,” said Thomson, who added: “There is also a lot of hypocrisy from Labour MPs and MSPs who support a second referendum on Brexit but oppose a second referendum on independence, the democratic principles are the same.”

Party membership plummets

JEREMY Corbyn’s Labour lost almost 46,000 members last year as it ramped up preparations for another General Election, official figures show.

The party continued to have the largest membership among UK political parties, reporting 518,659 individual members on December 31 – a drop from 564,443 in 2017.

The treasurers’ report noted there was an increase in membership income – almost £800,000 to £16.9 million – in 2018 while the fall in member numbers was “in line with previous experience”.

Concerns over the leadership’s approach to Brexit, plus the row over the handling of anti-Semitism allegations, have been ongoing issues during the period.

Labour raised the most income and spent the most funds in 2018, according to party accounts.

The Electoral Commission published details from 11 parties in Britain, with Labour’s income amounting to £45.6m and expenditure £46.3m.

The Conservatives were second with income of £34.2m and expenditure of £36.3m while the LibDems received £6.2m and spent £6.5m.

The SNP reported income of £4.7m and expenditure of £3.6m, and the Green Party income of £1.9m and expenditure of £2.2m.

The SNP’s membership rose by around 7000 in the second quarter of 2018, when their MPs staged a walk-out in the House of Commons, reaching 125,534 by the end of December.

That’s equivalent to around 3.2% of the Scottish electorate – the combined membership of the other three big parties is around 1.6% of the UK total.