Published: Saturday 25th October 2014 by The News Editor
Johann Lamont has resigned as leader of the Scottish Labour Party accusing the Westminster leadership of treating the party in Scotland as a “branch office”.
The Glasgow MSP called for greater autonomy for the Scottish party and criticised UK colleagues for not understanding the politics of post-referendum Scotland.
Speculation surrounded her leadership after last month’s Scottish independence referendum, despite her pledge to lead Labour into the 2016 Holyrood elections.
Announcing her resignation, Ms Lamont told the Daily Record: “Just as the SNP must embrace that devolution is the settled will of the Scottish people, the Labour Party must recognise that the Scottish party has to be autonomous and not just a branch office of a party based in London.
“Scotland has chosen to remain in partnership with our neighbours in the UK. But Scotland is distinct and colleagues must recognise that.
“There is a danger of Scottish politics being between two sets of dinosaurs … the Nationalists who can’t accept they were rejected by the people, and some colleagues at Westminster who think nothing has changed.”
Ms Lamont attacked those who had attempted to undermine her position as she sought to reform the party in Scotland.
This included moves to replace Scottish Labour general secretary Ian Price without her consultation, she said.
“Any leader whose general secretary can be removed by London without any consultation is in an untenable position. That has to change.
“The Scottish Labour Party should work as equal partners with the UK party, just as Scotland is an equal partner in the United Kingdom. Scotland has chosen home rule – not London rule.”
She added: “This has been orchestrated by people who do not understand the politics they are facing. Scotland has changed forever after the referendum.
“Party members up and down the country, voters on the doors, have spoken to me about the change they want. And that’s a Scottish Labour Party which reflects their views. That’s what I have been trying to build.
“However, some wanted me to become the issue. The Scottish Labour Party and its renewal are more important than me. That’s why I am standing down – so that debate our country demands can take place.”
Ms Lamont said she was proud of what had been achieved under her leadership, particularly the No vote on independence in the referendum.
She said Westminster politicians should not hamper the Smith Commission process to decide on further powers for the Scottish Parliament.
“The new devolution settlement must start with what is best for Scotland and not what suits Westminster MPs. Colleagues need to realise that the focus of Scottish politics is now Holyrood, not Westminster.”
Ms Lamont pledged to back the next leader of the Scottish party, “whoever they may be”.
She said: “I believe the Scottish Labour Party is a family . It is my family. And I hope it is led by someone who knows how to treat family members properly.”
UK Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “Johann Lamont deserves significant credit for the successful No vote in the Scottish referendum campaign.
“She campaigned the length and breadth of Scotland making the case for social justice within the United Kingdom. She has led the Scottish Labour Party with determination. I know she will continue to serve her constituents.
“Having elected a new leader, I believe the party will show the same will and determination it did in the referendum campaign to help us to victory in the general election of 2015 and the Scottish elections of 2016.”
Earlier this week, Scottish Labour was described as “going through a period of reflection” after the referendum, in which large numbers of its supporters voted to leave the UK despite the overall majority of Scots backing the union.
Labour former first minister Lord McConnell said the party must rediscover its ”sense of purpose”.
A new group of Labour activists want radical changes, such as changing the name to the Independent Labour Party and becoming fully autonomous from Labour’s London leadership.
The Labour for Scotland group also supports Holyrood being given full control over income tax, as well as complete responsibility for welfare – a position which goes further than Labour’s existing plans for further devolution.
Speculation surrounded Ms Lamont’s position during and after the referendum, with former prime minister Gordon Brown linked to the job.
Fellow MP Jim Murphy was also linked with the position but ruled himself out and urged the party to unite around Ms Lamont last weekend.
Current deputy Anas Sarwar will also be seen as a candidate for the position along with a number of prominent MSPs.
Ms Lamont joined the Labour Party as a teenager, and spent 20 years as an English teacher before being elected to represent Pollok at Holyrood.
She took over as the party’s Scottish leader in the aftermath of the 2011 election, where Labour suffered one of its worst defeats in Scotland.
She is the second Scottish party leader to resign following the referendum after First Minister Alex Salmond decided to step down from his role.
Mr Salmond will be replaced as First Minister and SNP party leader by deputy Nicola Sturgeon at their party conference in Perth next month.
Ms Sturgeon tweeted that she wished Ms Lamont well but added that if reports of divisions between the Scottish and UK Labour parties were accurate then “@scottishlabour really is in meltdown”.
A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “Johann Lamont’s resignation has shown the complete chaos at the heart of Ed Miliband’s operation in the starkest possible terms.
“The man isn’t fit to run a village fete, never mind the UK.”
Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: “I’d like to wish her well and express hope that those seeking change within the Scottish Labour Party can make progress – Scottish voters deserve to have the option of an effective Labour Party which can advocate the values and principles which its UK leadership has sadly long ago surrendered.”
Published: Saturday 25th October 2014 by The News Editor