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Ex-Scottish Labour leader admits voting for SNP in Brexit protest

Scottish Labour’s former leader Kezia Dugdale admitted that she voted for the SNP because she was “mad about Brexit”.

The ex-Labour MSP said she backed the nationalist rivals in 2019 – when she was still a leading figure in the party in the Scottish parliament.

Ms Dugdale, who is married to SNP’s education secretary Jenny Gilruth, said she had voted Labour ever since she left Holyrood two months after the May 2019 vote.

“I voted SNP once in my life and that was in the European Union elections immediately after Brexit, where I was so mad about Brexit,” she told the BBC.

She said she felt she could vote for the SNP in the May 2019 European Parliament election “because that in no way could be construed as a vote for [Scottish] independence”.

Ms Dugdale added: “I felt that that was a safe thing to do. I voted Labour in every election since then, from the council to the Scottish parliament, to the general election, I have used a vote for Labour.”

Kezia Dugdale was Scottish Labour leader between 2015 and 2017 (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Kezia Dugdale was Scottish Labour leader between 2015 and 2017 (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The eyebrow-raising admission comes in a Radio 4 documentary – Labour’s Scottish Challenge – which looks at the struggle the party has had north of the border, and the chances of a resurgence at this year’s general election.

While Scottish Labour has targeted around 20 seats in Scotland, party sources told the broadcaster that it believes as many as 28 seats could be “in play”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar told the documentary: “I think the tipping point in Scotland is around 35% - if we get around 35% in the polls then we are in competition to beat the SNP.”

He added: “If I said that to anybody two and a bit years ago, they would have thought I was deluded. But I have always believed that’s what we can do.”

The most recent Survation poll puts the SNP on 36 per cent and Scottish Labour on 34 per cent. Analysis by top pollster Prof John Curtice put the two parties on 23 seats.

A YouGov megapoll last month forecast that SNP would be reduced from 48 seats in Scotland to just 25, while Labour would grow from two seats to 24.

SNP leader Humza Yousaf said he remained optimistic ahead of the election expected later in 2024. “I don’t fear a general election at all. I see it’s a huge opportunity,” he said.

The first minister added: “There’s no getting away from the fact that 2023 was a difficult year. I’m not going to treat you or your listeners as fools … but the general election presents an opportunity because ultimately a general election will be and should be a battle of ideas.”