SCOTTISH Labour have insisted they were acting in the national interest and protecting devolution by voting for Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal in the Commons, while simultaneously voting to withhold consent for the agreement in Holyrood.

There were angry scenes in the party yesterday morning after Richard Leonard seemingly sent out a press release setting out the party’s position without having first read it. The statement said their MSPs would be voting “to deny legislative consent to Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal”. 

But then in a further release, sent out under Anas Sarwar’s name, that position had evolved. It said Labour MSPs would be opposing consent to express “deep dissatisfaction with the process in symbolic votes”. 

Leonard’s frontbenchers were reportedly furious that the initial release had not set out his support for Keir Starmer’s decision to back the deal. 

A Labour source told The Times: “This takes us to a new level of incompetence.”

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During the Holyrood debate, Leonard insisted the two parliaments were voting on two different propositions.

He said Labour MPs at Westminster would “reluctantly vote for the deal because the alternative will be chaos”.

After the debate, Sarwar, Labour’s constitution spokesman, defended the party’s votes: “Today the UK Labour Party put the national interest first and prevented No-Deal, and the Scottish Labour Party protected the devolution settlement by stating its opposition to the way in which the Tory Government has catastrophically mishandled Brexit.

“It is deeply encouraging that the Scottish Parliament has endorsed Labour’s call for the Erasmus scheme to be protected and for workers’ rights and environmental standards to be upheld.

“We don’t defeat division with more division. We don’t defeat nationalism with more nationalism.

“Only by working together in the national interest can we protect our society from the impact of Brexit and focus on rebuilding after Covid.”

The National: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer

Starmer was pushed on the seemingly contrasting position during the Commons debate.  The SNP’s David Linden pointed out that Labour had “two parliamentarians in Edinburgh South – one in the Scottish Parliament and one in Westminster”.

He added: “At 4pm this afternoon, the member of the Scottish Parliament will vote against the deal and his member of the Westminster Parliament here will vote for the deal. How does he square that circle?”

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Starmer responded: “[Linden] knows very well it’s a different vote.”

He added: “It is a completely different vote on a different issue.”

Starmer said the SNP were voting “in the hope that others will vote the other way and save him from the consequences of his own vote.”

He continued: “That is the truth of the situation for the SNP, hoping that others will do the right thing and vote in favour of implementing the treaty because we fought against No-Deal together for months and years.”

In Wales, the Labour-dominated Senedd backed the deal.

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, said the “thin and disappointing” agreement was at least “a platform on which better arrangements can be negotiated”.