Do Labour now expect a coalition with the SNP?

Labour's deputy leader in Scotland has "no qualms whatsoever about working with the SNP".

Labour’s deputy leader in Scotland has “no qualms whatsoever about working with the SNP”

Labour’s efforts in campaigning for a majority government in May have been dealt a setback following remarks by the deputy leader of the party in Scotland.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Crossfire programme yesterday, Kezia Dugdale appeared to concede that Labour is aiming simply to become the largest single party in the Commons and that she would be perfectly comfortable with an agreement to government with the SNP.

She told the programme:

“I think what we’re setting out to do is to be the largest party. I have no qualms whatsoever about working with the SNP, I argued very strongly for example here in Edinburgh that Labour and the SNP join together to run the city council and they do that very, very well.

“I’m not tribal in that sense, I don’t think many Labour voters or Labour members are.”

Her remarks have been seized upon on the day that Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy kicks off Labour’s election campaign in Scotland with a pledge to reach out to almost 200,000 voters who voted Labour in 2010 but supported independence in September.

In response to Dugdale’s remarks, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson commented:

“Kezia Dugdale is deputy leader of Labour in Scotland and has just completely undermined their general election attack on the SNP. Ms Dugdale said that Labour are aiming to be the ‘largest party’ in the UK – not win a majority – and she is happy to work with the SNP.

“This, of course, reinforces the SNP case that there is no need to vote Labour in Scotland to get rid of the Tories.

“It is vital that Jim Murphy and Ed Miliband now make clear if they agree with the deputy leader of Labour in Scotland on this matter.”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has also used a letter to supporters to warn that Labour and the SNP are “already halfway down the aisle” to forming the next government.

Meanwhile, on the day that the SNP begin their general election campaign, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has seemingly ruled out any idea of a formal coalition with Labour. Speaking this morning on BBC Radio Scotland she explained:

“I’m not instinctively that keen on coalitions. I, as you know, was deputy first minister in a minority government between 2007 and 2011 and I think there’s a lot to be said for minority government.

“You’re absolutely correct that the SNP would never support formally or informally a Tory government but we could make sure that Labour didn’t get away with taking Scotland for granted in the way that it has done for far too long.”

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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