A FORMER Labour candidate for Holyrood has left the party over its stance on independence and warned opposition would only drive more supporters away.

Heather Herbert ran to be an MSP last year and has now joined the pro-independence Greens ahead of May’s local elections.

Speaking to The National, Herbert gave a devastating assessment of Labour’s chances – which she said were being harmed by staunch opposition to independence and another referendum.

The National:

Despite Anas Sarwar’s pledges to unify the party when he became leader, Herbert said the party was “more divided” now than before he took over.

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Herbert – who voted Yes in 2014 – said the party’s opposition was “high” on her list of reasons for going Green.

She said: “Labour would much rather fight for the scraps on the table rather than actually win.

“My position on independence hasn’t changed – it’s always been whatever is best for my community.

“A surprising number of Labour members are pro-independence, or at the very least, pro-indyref2.

“I think they are going to lose even more members and support [over indyref2]. It’s just kowtowing to the Tories and backing the Tories’ line.

“Unless Labour comes out with a very strong socialist argument for staying in the Union, they are just going to haemorrhage support.”

The National:

Even talking about independence is “taboo” within the Labour party under Sarwar’s leadership, Herbert claimed.

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“When Anas [Sarwar] got elected, he came across somebody who was willing to listen and willing to work with the left and wanted to move things forward,” she said.

“But over time it became clear that was not the case. My position on independence is different than the majority of the party but you couldn’t speak about independence.

“It was a taboo subject. Sarwar hasn’t done what he claimed he would do in the election.

“He hasn’t unified the party – it’s as divided if not more divided now.”

Herbert, who works for Aberdeen University, hopes to represent the Kincorth/Nigg/Cove ward for the Greens on the city council.

She described the area as a working-class community that had been “abandoned” by successive governments.

The National:

“Much of Aberdeen has benefitted from the oil industry,” said Herbert.

“But Kincorth, Cove and Nigg, not as much. It’s almost as if it’s sort of passed them by.

“There is still a little bit of money there but nowhere near as much as the rest of Aberdeen.

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“It’s been abandoned by successive administrations and Aberdeen City Council. It should be a Labour stronghold, but it’s just been abandoned.”

She began considering leaving the Labour party as early as April last year – while she was still a Holyrood candidate for the party.

Herbert, who is transgender, said a range of other issues had made her decide to quit Labour, including taking “no interest” in tackling transphobia within the party.

She said: “The lack of support for independence is high on the list [of reasons to leave] but so was the fact they done nothing to tackle transphobia in the party.

“I was the trans officer for LGBT+ Labour and they had no interest really in dealing with transphobia.

“It was a nuisance they just tried to ignore.

“It wasn’t one particular event that made me want to leave Labour but just steadily over the past couple of years.

“When I was still a candidate I considered leaving but I decided not to because it wasn’t fair to the people who had voted for me to be a candidate.

“So I stuck it out until May and then I went into a bit of a hiatus, did a bit of soul searching.

“The lack of action on transphobia was the catalyst but not the sole reason.”

Aberdeen City Council has long been a source of controversy for Scottish Labour.

The so-called “Aberdeen Nine” were suspended from the party in 2017 for forming a coalition with the Tories.

It was ruled last year the councillors would be allowed to be reselected – if their local parties back them – to stand for re-election in May.

Greens MSP Maggie Chapman welcomed Herbert's move. 

She said: "Heather has a wealth of experience fighting for people's healthcare, jobs and civil liberties. I'm delighted she'll now be doing so as a Scottish Greens candidate in this May's council elections.

"The next five years will be critical for our communities as they redevelop to meet the changing needs of the green economy.

"Having more Scottish Green councillors like Heather to ensure the needs of people and planet are met, rather than just the short-term profits of corporations, will make a huge difference to people's lives."

Scottish Labour was approached for comment.