Outgoing Scots Labour leader Iain Gray takes blame

Iain Gray
Image caption Iain Gray said much had been done to reform the Scottish party

Outgoing Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray has told his party's UK conference that he takes the blame for the May election's "terrible result".

The MSP announced he was to step down after Labour lost to the SNP.

Mr Gray said that since the election much had been done to reform and renew Scottish Labour.

The Liverpool gathering also heard from Shadow Scottish Secretary Ann McKechin who said constitutional uncertainty was not a good thing for Scotland.

She said: "The time for playing games with the people of Scotland should now be over. Are we seriously to believe that the first minister, who has spent most of his waking hours for the past 30 odd years on how to achieve separation, doesn't know the question to ask the Scottish electorate?

"Does anyone in the Scottish government believe that this constitutional uncertainty is a good thing for Scotland?"

Ms McKechin's speech was followed by one from Mr Gray.

He began by saying: "On the day after the Scottish Parliament election in May I announced that I would step down as leader, because I take responsibility for our terrible result. That's what leaders do.

"But I did not step down immediately, because I wanted Scottish Labour to have time to reflect, review and reform."

Both speeches focused heavily on the forthcoming independence referendum which the SNP has said would be held later on in the five-year parliament.

Mr Gray told party members he recognised that there was a possible future for Scotland outside the union but he believed remaining in the union was the best possible option.

He said: "I believe with all my heart that Scotland is big enough, smart enough and rich enough in talent to stand with our comrades, friends, neighbours, workmates and family all across these islands.

"I do not believe that a strong fair and equal Scotland in a strong fair and equal Britain is the only possible future for Scotland - but I am sure that it is the best possible future for Scotland.

"I believe, we believe, that we are stronger together."

The Scottish politician, who will step down later in the autumn, said that Labour would measure its success against the "aspiration of our people, not against our friends and neighbours".

He said: "The SNP always measure their success against England.

"In the world of the SNP, a marginal drop in unemployment is a triumph just because it's still going up in England.

"Well that isn't Labour's benchmark. If you only aspire to be marginally better than the Tories then you shouldn't be in politics."

Election defeat

He said his party's vision north of the border was no unemployment, safer streets and "longer and better lives for all Scots".

Earlier Ms McKechin had paid tribute to Mr Gray's "unstinting commitment and loyalty" to the party.

She added: "Iain, I know that your lifelong drive for social justice will continue to ensure that you make a difference to our country."

Following Scottish Labour's loss of nine seats at the Holyrood election, an overhaul of the party had taken place.

An executive committee-backed review, led by Jim Murphy MP and Sarah Boyack MSP, recommended full devolution from the UK party on all Scottish matters.

Other proposals included creating an elected leader of the Scottish party which would be open to all Labour MSPs, MPs and MEPs.

Previously the post was leader of the parliamentary group at Holyrood, and was only open to members of the Scottish Parliament.

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