Kezia Dugdale warns Brexit could lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom

Scottish Labour's leader also talked about her private life for the first time in an interview with Fabian Review

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Kezia Dugdale, the leader of Scottish Labour, has said it is “not inconceivable” that she could back a vote for the independence in the event that doing so could secure Scotland’s membership of the European Union, and dismissed suggestions that her party will finish behind the Scottish Conservatives in an interview with the Fabian Review.

The interview also marks the first time that Dugdale has publicly spoken about her personal life, telling Mary Riddell, “I have a female partner. I don’t talk about it very much because I don’t feel I need to.”

But Labour aides clarified that the remarks referred to a hypothetical scenario in which Scotland could automatically remain in the European Union, a scenario that the Labour leader believes is implausible. Dugdale herself said “I campaigned as hard as anybody to ensure that Scotland remained part of the UK,” adding, “I would vote to stay in the UK in any future referendum.” She warned that "if we leave the EU because of Tory infighting Nicola Sturgeon will do everything she can to use that as an excuse for another independence vote". 

Dugdale’s decision to commit Scottish Labour to raising taxes to lessen spending cuts has put her party under pressure, with some analysts predicting a third-placed finish to Ruth Davidson’s Conservatives. But Dugdale dismissed the suggestion that her party would finish behind the Tories, saying ]: “Their core message seems to be that you can only trust the Tories with the Union, but that trust was broken with [the introduction of] EVEL [English Votes for English Laws].” But Dugdale – Labour’s sixth leader in eight years north of the border – insists that regardless of the result, she will remain in post as leader, having secured undertakings from 20 of her colleagues prior to seeking the role.

Also in the interview, Dugdale said:

“It’s said that I have the toughest job in politics. That’s closely followed by people tilting their heads and asking me if I’m OK. That really amuses me. I had a choice whether to step up and do this job, and I made that choice in the midst of our worst general election defeat ever. I wasn’t going into this with my eyes closed.”

On her predecessor, Jim Murphy:

“I was very loyal to Jim [Murphy]. He was a good friend, and I guess he did step up thinking he could come in and miraculously turn things round. I supported him, and he gave it everything – and it didn’t work. I’m not going to repeat the same strategy [or] scream into the faces of angry people. That approach has been exhausted. We tried it, and it didn’t work."

On why she doesn't ask former big beasts for advice:

“I don’t have relationships with Gordon Brown or [people like] Douglas Alexander. Of course I’ve met them and shared platforms with them, but I don’t pick up the phone to those figures, and I would be most unlikely to do so in any moment of crisis. I’m acutely aware that I have a lot to prove as a young female. The minute it looks like I’ve phoned the big boys to help, I’m in trouble. It’s not arrogance on my part. I’d lose credibility.”

On her personal life:

“I have a female partner. I don’t talk about it very much because I don’t feel I need to. And there’s something too about how meteoric my career has been. I am generally calm, almost serene. I don’t get easily stressed or battered. But I need a bit of stability to do that, and that means my private life is my private life. That’s the thing I just have to have that nobody gets to touch, and that gives me the strength to be calm elsewhere.”  

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.