Scottish Labour leader predicts snap election sparked by Brexit vote

Richard Leonard said a Labour government would take an "active interventionist role" in economic planning as he predicted a snap general election sparked by parliament voting down the final Brexit deal.

The Scottish Labour leader said trade unions would have a central role in planning the new economy as he stressed class is the "real divide" in Scotland and across the UK, not nationality.

Speaking in Glasgow as shadow Scottish secretary Lesley Laird was confirmed as deputy leader of Scottish Labour, he said the Conservative final deal on Brexit will "almost certainly be voted down in parliament".

Mr Leonard added: "At which point I think there will be a constitutional crisis which will, in turn, pave the way for a UK general election.

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"That general election, I will be confident I would want to see Jeremy Corbyn returned as prime minister and Lesley Laird returned as secretary of state for Scotland."

Claiming only his party could unify people in Scotland based on redistributing power and wealth, he said: "Let me be clear about this, as far as the Labour Party is concerned, trade unions have a central role to play in the new economy, not just defending their members but using their members' knowledge, skills and capacities to plan for the future."

He added: "There is the clear choice between Labour and the SNP.

"We seek to put economic power directly into the hands of the people to drive forward growth from the bottom up with an active interventionist role in government.

"The SNP simply seeks to make Scotland even more of a branch plant economy, over-dependent on overseas board rooms and volatile foreign direct investment."

The latter criticism was part of further attacks on the SNP's sustainable growth commission report on Scotland's economic future, which Labour has already said outlines an austerity agenda leading to a decade of cuts, which the SNP denies.

Richard Leonard and Lesley Laird
Richard Leonard and Lesley Laird

Mr Leonard said Nicola Sturgeon's assertion that continuing to use the pound in an independent Scotland for a transition period, as outlined in the report, would be a continuation of the current situation was "not true".

He said the report's strategy means an independent Scotland would not have control over policy on interest rates, mortgage rates and inflation, among others, giving "less sovereignty".

"You need to be at the point where economic power is exercised and this would be a dereliction of economic duty, if we we were to follow the path put forward by the growth commission," he added.

"The choice now couldn't be clearer - the austerity economics of nationalism or the transformation of Scotland's economy in the UK with Labour."

An SNP spokesman said Scottish Labour is "hopelessly consumed by chaos and conflicting positions on Brexit".

He said: "It is the SNP government in Scotland, and in opposition in Westminster, that is stepping up to the mark and working to protect the economy, jobs and the livelihoods of families across the country."

The growth commission report is based on "an end to austerity and a plan for a progressive Scotland", he added.