POLITICS

Scottish Independence Campaigners Guilty Of 'Misogynistic Abuse', Says Labour's Margaret Curran

03/09/2014 15:09 BST | Updated 03/09/2014 15:59 BST
Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Margaret Curran during her speech at the Scottish Labour Party conference at the Perth Concert Hall in Perth.

Labour's shadow Scottish secretary, Margaret Curran, has hit out at the co-ordinated "misogynistic" abuse she has received from some supporters of Scottish independence, as the latest polls suggest the outcome of the referendum is on a knife edge.

In an interview with The Huffington Post on Wednesday, Curran said she was concerned about some of the "division" in Scottish society that the campaign had created. "I have personally experienced a level of personal abuse that I have never had in all my years in politics," she said.

"I come from the west of Scotland. We are not shrinking violets in our opinions, and neither am I. But there has been a level of just misogynistic personal abuse," she said. "There is no place in this debate for someone to be called traitor just because you disagree with the Yes campaign, or to be called a quisling."

Curran said she could not say who was behind the personal attacks, but added that she "would urge the Yes campaign to tell their people to stop doing that".

She added: "I don’t spend my life worrying about this kind of thing, but there is some degree of pattern in it and some of the organisations that have registered have been quite scurrilous in their behaviour. There does seem to be some degree of local co-ordination, some sort of networking going on, that I think is reprehensible.

"That is very different from people who are reasonably voting Yes. I would reach out to those people and say we can offer everyone in Scotland a future if we pull together and work together. I think people should vote because of the arguments and should respect both sides."

Jim Murphy, Labour's shadow development secretary, recently cancelled his pro-union tour of Scotland due to threats from supporters of independence. However he has now gone back out on the campaign trail. In response to Murphy's accusations the Yes campaign said it condemned "all forms of abusive, dangerous and offensive behaviour".

With just two weeks to go until the 18 September polling day, the nationalist camp is in good spirits. A YouGov poll earlier this week suggested support for independence had risen by eight points in a month, with the survey finding that, when undecided voters were excluded, 53% of those questioned planned to vote No while 47% would back Yes.

Curran told HuffPost that she did not think it was "any surprise" that as referendum drew near people had started to engage with the arguments more. "We are still ahead in the polls, still significantly ahead. And I am confident we are going to win the argument," she said.

The pro-union Better Together campaign has faced criticism that it has been too negative. But Curran said she and her Labour colleagues were focused on delivering a "positive message" and that a No vote was a vote for the "change Scotland needs" rather than for the status quo.

The Labour Party is the main opposition in Scotland and has had to shoulder much of the burden of the No campaign, despite not being in power in Westminster. Ed Miliband will visit Scotland tomorrow to campaign and Curran said the Labour leader will be "honest and direct with people" about the risks of independence.

"The Scottish Labour Party is in good form, talking to thousands of people motivated by what we believe, motivated because we have a vision and an offer to the people of Scotland," she said.

Of Miliband, Curran said she was "hopeful he will be prime minister" after 2015 and that she in turn would become Scottish secretary in a post-referendum Labour government. "My first day in the job would be getting to work on more powers for the Scottish parliament, that is an absolute guarantee," she said.

Curran, the MP for Glasgow East since 2010, said while Salmond was "very hot on rhetoric" he had not answered basic questions including what currency an independent Scotland would use and had resorted to lying to voters.

"Alex Salmond essentially told lies about the European Union. And now he is doing the same with the NHS. He was found out about the EU he will be found out about he NHS. I think Scots are much more likely to be persuaded by a Labour vision, a Labour vision of partnership across the UK but also a very strong Scottish parliament," she said.

Curran also dismissed the suggestion that Better Together's latest poster campaign, which included slogans such as "we love our kids, we're saying no thanks", had been unfair. "There is a motive for people to create a backlash, sometimes its whipped up a bit, there is a is a bit of a false outrage about these things," she said. "I judge it on what my constituents say to me. I’ve not had that [backlash]."

During prime minister's questions on Wednesday David Cameron was warned by a Tory MP that the No campaign had been complacent the breakup of the UK would be a "humiliation of catastrophic proportions". Cameron said that as an English MP "we want Scotland to stay".