LABOUR MSP Alex Rowley, a former deputy leader of the Scottish branch of the party, has accused the anti-independence parties of doing Scotland "a great disservice" by refusing to engage in discussions about the constitution. 

He said that under the leadership of Anas Sarwar, seen by many to belong to the über- Unionist wing of the party along with Jackie Baillie and Ian Murray (Labour's sole remaining Westminster MP), the  Labour Party in Scotland had grown "out-of-touch" with the wider labour movement in Scotland, in which there is widespread support for a multi-option referendum to include federalism and so-called "devo-max" along with independence and the current devolution arrangements. 

The National: Alex Rowley questioned his branch office leader's positionAlex Rowley questioned his branch office leader's position

In April 2021, the Scottish TUC voted in support of a motion stating that the Scottish Parliament should have the power to hold a referendum on Scotland's future and should not require UK Government consent. 

In April this year, Roz Foyer, the general secretary of the STUC, dismissed Labour's rejection of another independence referendum as not viable, and said: "We absolutely support the right to self-determination for the Scottish people. At the end of the day, it should be up to the Scottish Parliament to determine whether there's an indyref2."

Len McCluskey, the former general secretary of the influential Unite union, likewise criticised the constitutional intransigence of the current leadership of the Labour Party in Scotland and their apparent eagerness to side with the Conservatives in denying the democratic will of the people of Scotland to revisit the independence question.

Speaking in March this year, McCluskey urged Sarwar to "grasp the nettle" and support another independence referendum, warning that unless it did so, “Labour could be lost to another generation in Scotland”. He observed that the Labour Party in Scotland is stagnating, and added: "It is completely out of touch with ordinary working-class people in Scotland – we have lost thousands. Droves and droves of Labour voters have moved over to the SNP."

Alex Rowley is the latest influential Labour voice to warn that the party must change tack. Despite the near collapse of the Conservatives at the recent council elections, Labour were unable to make the large gains needed in order to recover even a fraction of the party’s former political dominance in Scotland.

Rowley has said there was "clearly a majority of Scots who favour change" and echoed the observations previously made by Roz Foyer that Labour in Scotland is "out of touch" with the wider Labour movement.

Labour's strategy seems to be to try and close down any discussion about independence or another referendum in the hope that the entire topic will just go away. It should be clear by now that that is not going to happen. Given that the constitutional issue has dominated the Scottish political landscape for over a decade and pro-independence parties continue to enjoy widespread public support, there is obviously a need for the question of independence to be addressed.

The obstinacy of Labour and the Conservatives in refusing to concede that there is in fact a clear mandate at Holyrood for another referendum merely creates the impression that these parties are only continuing to oppose another referendum because they are afraid of what its result might be. This has exposed the lack of respect for democracy in Sarwar's Labour party. 

Alex Rowley is just the latest in a line of influential voices in the Labour Party and the wider labour movement to call for change to the current intransigence on the constitutional question. Labour like to call themselves the people's party, but right now, they look like a people's party which is afraid of the people.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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