Ex-Scottish Labour leader hits out at successor on Brexit and treatment of MEPs

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has launched a stinging attack on her successor Richard Leonard, just days before the party’s conference.

In a leaked email sent by Ms Dugdale to Mr Leonard, the Lothian MSP accused him of censoring the party’s two MEPs, Catherine Stihler and David Martin, by not giving them a formal opportunity to speak at conference.

Ms Dugdale also criticised a failure to recognise the combined 55-year service of Ms Stihler and Mr Martin to the party, and claimed Mr Leonard had altered text written by Ms Stihler for the conference agenda without her consent.

The party’s conference in Dundee will begin on Friday morning and lasts until Sunday.

In her email, Ms Dugdale wrote: “I wish to formally complain about the way in which Catherine Stihler and David Martin have been treated ahead of conference.

“From what I can see from the agenda, there is no formal opportunity for them to speak or indeed a formal item to thank them for their combined 55 years of electoral service to the party.

“If that wasn’t bad enough, I was shocked to discover from Catherine that her statement in the conference guide had been amended without her consent.

“When that was challenged, she was told it was on your direction and that you had the final say on what was printed.”

Ms Dugdale also claimed Ms Stihler’s section in the conference guide had originally included a statement in support of a People’s Vote on Brexit.

The section had stated: “Brexit is a tragedy for our country and for the workers and communities that Labour represents. That’s why David and Catherine fully support a People’s Vote with the option to remain in the EU.”

Richard Leonard
Richard Leonard

However, according to Ms Dugdale, the section was replaced with: “The complete mess the Tories have made of Brexit means they are putting Scottish people’s jobs and our industries at risk. Labour will always put them first.”

Ms Dugdale continued: “I find that wholly inappropriate and I can’t possibly understand why you would seek to censor her final words to party members, especially since what she states is party policy and has been since last September.

“Can I encourage you to please take urgent steps to rectify what I consider to be a considerable insult and ensure that we thank these two outstanding MEPs properly at conference.”

Mr Leonard was also criticised in the email for his stance on Brexit, with Ms Dugdale expressing her disappointment that his support for holding a People’s Vote had not come sooner.

She wrote: “You know that I’ve found the party’s position on Brexit and a second EU referendum disappointing for some time.

“As I said at group last week and repeatedly over the past few months, I don’t believe there is such a thing as a good Brexit or indeed a ‘jobs first Brexit’.

Kezia Dugdale
Kezia Dugdale

“I remain utterly convinced, rooted in all the evidence I have seen, that it will be immensely damaging for the Scottish and UK economy.

“A price which will once again be paid by those in low-paid and insecure work, the very people we seek to represent.

“The move towards supporting a People’s Vote is a welcome one, but it should have happened much, much earlier. I note from your roundtable with journalists last week that you’d sooner we left the EU than give people a final say.

“That’s disappointing for the many party members who fervently back a final say and indeed all of our voters who are now a bit lost for a home.”

Scottish Labour has been contacted for comment.