Scottish opposition leader quits with 'dinosaur' blast

Scottish opposition leader quits with 'dinosaur' blast
Scottish labour party leader Johann Lamont speaks to delegates at the conclusion of the Scotland Report in the main hall of Manchester Central, in Manchester on September 22, 2014 on the second day of the Labour Party conference

LONDON - Johann Lamont, leader of the opposition Labour Party in Scotland, quit on Saturday, branding the wider UK party leadership "dinosaurs" who failed to grasp how the independence referendum had changed Scottish politics.

Lamont said the party in Scotland needed greater autonomy as more powers are transferred from London to Edinburgh following the narrowly-contested referendum.

And her resignation with immediate effect highlights deep divisions within the left-of-centre party, led by Ed Miliband, ahead of Britain's May 2015 general election.

In last month's referendum, Scotland voted by 55 per cent to 45 per cent to remain in the United Kingdom. The pro-independence campaign was led by the Scottish National Party (SNP), the governing party in Scotland, while Labour favoured staying within the union.

"Scotland has chosen home rule - not London rule," Lamont told the Daily Record newspaper.

"The Labour Party must recognise that the Scottish party has to be autonomous and not just a branch office of a party based in London.

"There is a danger of Scottish politics being between two sets of dinosaurs ... the Nationalists who can't accept they were rejected by the people, and some colleagues at Westminster who think nothing has changed." Lamont said she had been critically undermined by the central party.

"Any leader whose general secretary can be removed by London without any consultation is in an untenable position," she said.

The 57-year-old added: "This has been orchestrated by people who do not understand the politics they are facing. Scotland has changed forever after the referendum." A Labour fiefdom since the 1960s, Scotland is crucial to the party's hopes of winning the May 2015 general election, making Miliband the prime minister.

Labour won 41 of the 59 Scottish seats at the 2010 election to the 650-member parliament, but lost supporters to the pro-independence cause during the referendum campaign and will face a much tougher challenge from a buoyant SNP next time around.

Nicola Sturgeon, the incoming SNP leader and Scottish first minister, said Lamont quitting showed Labour was in "deep division".

"Her shock resignation reveals Labour to be in complete meltdown in Scotland," she said.

Miliband did not address Lamont's complaints as he paid tribute to her, saying: "Johann Lamont deserves significant credit for the successful 'No' vote in the Scottish referendum campaign." Labour's woes were not helped by a report in The Daily Telegraph newspaper claiming Tony Blair - Britain's Labour prime minister from 1997 to 2007 - thought the party had not made a good enough case to win the May general election.

But Blair said Saturday: "The Telegraph story does not represent my view. Ed Miliband and the Labour Party can and will win the next election."

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