LABOUR grandee Douglas Alexander has claimed that Scotland has been mired in a “lost decade” of constitutional arguing preventing progress.

The former cabinet minister, under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said he “genuinely cannot think” of an aspect of public life that has improved under the SNP in the past decade in an interview with The Times.

Labour’s candidate for the key Westminster target seat in East Lothian said that he was reentering politics after eight years because he “despairs” about the state of the nation.

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He suggested that the focus on Scottish independence has stalled progress in other areas. 

Alexander lost his Paisley and Renfrewshire South seat, which he had held since 1997, to the SNP’s Mhairi Black, then aged 20, in 2015. Black has recently said she intends to stand down as an MP at the next election after almost a decade in the House of Commons.

And now, Alexander is set to challenge Alba's MP Kenny MacAskill for the East Lothian seat when the next Westminster election comes around.

In an interview with The Times, he claimed that squabbling over constitutional politics since 2014 has led to a “lost decade” costing social and economic progress.

He reportedly quoted the architect of the Good Friday Agreement John Hume who said: “You can’t eat a flag.”

The National: After the polls closed there were early reports that former Labour shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander had scraped home. He hadn’t. His seat went to Mhairi Black.

Alexander (above) added: “Over the last decade the main currency of Scottish politics has been identity and not delivery.

“So you have people that admit they can’t build ferries, or schools are failing, or the attainment gap is widening, or one in seven are on waiting lists, but still think: ‘My job is to express my identity.’”

The former minister said he was returning to Scottish politics because he is “committed to Scotland” and “believes in public service”.

“It’s also partly that I really despair about the state of the nation. I look back over the last decade and I genuinely cannot think of an aspect of Scottish public life that has got better,” he said.

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He also claimed that the issue of the last two SNP first ministers of Scotland, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, being interviewed under caution by police in two different police investigations, was being raised on the doorsteps.

Alexander has been seen campaigning for Labour’s Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election candidate Michael Shanks in recent weeks, as well as in his target constituency.

He was elected the Labour candidate for the seat two days before Sturgeon’s resignation, on February 12.

“I have knocked on literally thousands of doors and I sense a huge amount of anger with the Conservative government but also a huge amount of sadness about the SNP government,” he said.

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“Personally, I can’t think of another politician - in the case of Nicola Sturgeon - who has so effectively accumulated political capital to so little lasting effect.

“It is a profound disappointment how little has changed and how little has been achieved over the last few years.”

Alexander claimed he was picked as the candidate for the seat in East Lothian for his ability to appeal to both “Prestonpans Labour Club and North Berwick Golf Club”.

He said his “primary motivation” was to contribute to a Scottish Labour “comeback” and to try and secure a Labour Westminster government.

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Recent polling has put the SNP and Scottish Labour neck and neck at Westminster level, with most seats seen as marginals between the two parties.

In 2020, Alexander resigned as chair of Unicef UK after accusations of bullying behaviour towards staff emerged. He denied the claims and said they had come as a “complete surprise”, with the charity launching a full review after complaints were lodged with its board of trustees.

We previously told how Scottish Labour were given £1 million by the UK Labour Party to target 25 key seats north of the border at the next General Election.

And, the party’s accounts revealed that Scottish Labour only meets its financial obligations due to “assistance” from Labour HQ.