Barrie Cunning says the next Scottish Labour leader must complete Kezia Dugdale’s task of turning us into a party of government by 2021.


The 2017 general election result illustrated that the populism of the SNP is in decline as the nationalist rhetoric of a better Scotland separating from the United Kingdom has taken it’s toll on the Scottish electorate and once again the people of Scotland are more interested in progressive policy as opposed to perpetual nationalist propaganda.

Kezia Dugdale took on one of the toughest jobs in UK politics, the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party. The country had just been through an intense and divisive referendum and in turn a devastating Westminster election and local election result which was overshadowed by the constitutional question.

In my opinion Kezia led the party with dignity, respect and conviction and I for one believe that has to be respected as it wasn’t for the faint hearted.

The question of independence will always be a factor in Scottish politics, but the political narrative in Scotland is starting to move away from the constitutional question to one based on policy, in other words bread and butter issues that affect the lives of the people of Scotland. This is where our future strength lies, as I believe the next Westminster and Scottish Parliament elections will be fought on policy and not the constitution. That said, if the Brexit negotiations result in a hard Brexit the SNP will use that as justification for a second referendum.

The next leader of the Scottish Labour Party will face the same intense scrutiny as did Kezia Dugdale and there will be a high level of expectation that the new leader will be able to turn the Scottish Labour Party into a party ready for government by 2021.

Any candidate that puts themselves forward will have to demonstrate to the membership of the party that they are capable of achieving this and how they will do it. It can’t be based on soundbites or a prolonged reference to what the Labour Party has achieved in the past. We have done a lot, and I’m proud of what our movement has achieved, but that was in the past and it’s about going forward.

For me the candidate that I would be supporting is the candidate that talks about having a solid message that resonates well with the Scottish people, a message that people understand and know what Scottish Labour stands for and in turn reconnecting with the people of Scotland.