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Richard Leonard: Constitutional issues played major role in devastating defeat

The Scottish Labour leader has set a target of ending 14 years in opposition with the 2021 election at Holyrood.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard with Jeremy Corbyn (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard with Jeremy Corbyn (Andrew Milligan/PA)

By Douglas Barrie, PA Scotland

The Scottish Labour leader has lamented his party’s “devastating” election results, putting the defeat down to constitutional issues rather than shifting blame to Jeremy Corbyn.

Richard Leonard has set a target of ending 14 years in opposition with the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, which he hopes to achieve by winning back “the trust of people on both sides of the Brexit and Scottish independence debates”.

Labour was again left with just one MP in Scotland after the General Election, which saw the SNP win 47 MPs – their second best Westminster result ever.

Mr Leonard also called the result “disappointing” and one which “will be devastating to everyone who needs a Labour government most”.

He said: “After all the hard work put in by Labour activists in Scotland over months of campaigning, the motivational leadership shown by our candidates, and the exciting manifesto we stood on, I was deeply disappointed by the result.

“But the voters have spoken and we must listen. Constitutional issues have played a major role in our defeat.

“It is clear that we must do more to win back the trust of people on both sides of the Brexit and Scottish independence debates.

“But more importantly, we must bring people together.

“The only future for Scotland, and for Scottish Labour, will be found in bringing together our communities on the basis of the overwhelming common interest that working people have – whether they are Yes or No, Leave or Remain.”

In the early hours of the morning Ian Murray was critical of party leader Mr Corbyn – who said he would not lead the party through another general election.

The Edinburgh South MP used his own victory speech to criticise the leadership for helping to deliver “the worst Conservative prime minister in history”.

Contrary to Mr Leonard’s remarks, he said voters he spoke to on the doorsteps during this campaign did not see Mr Corbyn as prime minister and could not see Labour as a credible alternative government.

In a tweet he warned: “This party must listen, this party must respond, or this party will die.”

Our job is to rebuild our party, on a positive message of real change, because we owe that to those who need us most Richard Leonard

Looking ahead, Mr Leonard also said: “As we look forward to the 2021 Scottish Parliament election I want to offer the people of Scotland a message of hope in place of fear, rooted in their day-to-day experiences, based on our enduring Scottish Labour values.

“As long as there are children going to bed hungry, cuts and closures in our public services, and a low wage and precarious economy, we have to offer an alternative to the status quo, and it can’t be one of tinkering around the edges.

“The truth is that only the Labour Party is committed to that. So our job is to rebuild our party, on a positive message of real change, because we owe that to those who need us most.

“We know that our nine years of opposition at Westminster did not come to an end last night.

“But in 2021 I am determined that our 14 years of opposition will come to an end in the Scottish Parliament.

“This is ambitious, but we should not apologise for our ambition.”

PA

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