EX-Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has admitted she can no longer argue for the Union as she did in 2014.

Dugdale – who left the Labour party four years ago – appeared as part of a panel alongside journalist and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where she was asked about her views on independence and whether she thought there would be another referendum in Scotland in the next decade.

The former MSP admitted she had “moved” on the independence issue and said she could not stand up for the Union in the same way as she did as part of the Better Together movement in 2014.

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At one stage – although she appeared to stop short of switching to Yes outright –she hinted if she was presented with the option of Scottish independence in Europe against “little Boris Brexit Britain”, she would vote Yes.

Asked if she thought there would be an independence referendum in the next decade, Dugdale said: “I don’t because I don’t think either a Labour or Conservative government will concede a referendum.

“I don’t think Scotland will have the chance to have its say again [in that period]. 

“If you’re presented with the binary choice of an independent Scotland in a progressive Europe or little Boris Brexit Britain, I know where my cards would fall down, and I also know I couldn’t argue with the same strength for the Union that I did in 2014, now.

“That doesn’t mean I’m ready to vote Yes, there are big questions we need to debate as a country. I have moved [on independence]. I wouldn’t say I’m on the fence, but I have certainly moved.

"I certainly understand the case for independence much better than I did."

Dugdale – who is married to SNP cabinet secretary Jenny Gilruth – said she was now surrounded by nationalists on a regular basis “in a very good way” and talked about the country’s future with them “all the time”.

When Riddoch said it was “outrageous” the main reason independence "won’t happen is not because most people don’t want it” but because Westminster won’t allow a vote, Dugdale nodded her head in agreement.

The ex-Lothian region representative – who is now director of the John Smith Centre for Public Service at the University of Glasgow – added she had a “great deal of ill feeling” towards the Labour Party’s “inability” to make the case for the benefits of the UK in Europe.

She said: “It’s my European politics that means I’m not a member of the Labour party anymore.

"I believe in unions of people and unions of nations and I’ve got a great deal of ill feeling towards the Labour Party’s inability to make the case for the benefits of the UK in Europe, not just in the lead up to the EU referendum but in the days afterwards where we had the potential to limit the damage we all experienced.”

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Asked if she was disappointed with Keir Starmer’s stance on Brexit, she said she was, but added she still understood he was trying to win an election.

“I desperately want him to win this election because I want the Tories out of office,” she told a crowd at the Edinburgh College of Art.

“I think there are many people in this room who want an independent Scotland and want to see the back of this current government.”