The Labour party is expelling members based in Scotland without consulting Scottish Labour, causing members to question leader Kezia Dugdale’s recent claims that her party is “autonomous”.
Labour HQ has been purging members who have broken party rules either by campaigning for other parties or being abusive towards Labour politicians, although many have claimed they've had their membership removed unfairly.
BuzzFeed News has spoken to several Scottish Labour members who have been purged and forced to contact senior Scottish Labour figures to help them appeal against the UK party's rulings.
Since she became leader last year, Dugdale has repeatedly claimed her party is autonomous from Jeremy Corbyn's party – including in a letter addressed to Nicola Stugeon this week (below) – but areas like membership and finance are still largely controlled centrally by Labour HQ.
Members of Scottish Labour are being informed about their expulsion in letters from Iain McNicol, the general secretary of UK Labour, rather than Brian Roy, who holds the same role for Scottish Labour.
Speaking anonymously, one purged Scottish Labour member said: "When I was expelled neither my constituency Labour party or others had knowledge or input into the process which saw me removed from the party.
"Their surprise at my expulsion shows how exclusionary this practice is – one that refuses to realise members are individuals with a wide range of opinions, and doesn't see fit to seek the opinions of party officials who know those members best."
The member added: "If London dictates the membership without so much as a conversation with Scottish Labour it leaves our credibility as a more autonomous party in pieces."
Another member said they were purged but had been readmitted after informing Roy about the decision, who lobbied the UK party to have the suspension overturned. Roy did not respond to a request for a comment.
Rhea Wolfson, a member of Scottish Labour who was recently elected to Labour's powerful national executive committee [NEC], confirmed that Scottish Labour has no official role in deciding whether or not their members should be suspended.
"Kezia has been in conversation over Scottish Labour having autonomy over compliance, but right now they have none – although Brian Roy has gotten involved in some cases," said Wolfson. "He still has a loud voice, but no official role in this."
A Labour spokesperson said decisions about expulsions are taken according to UK party rules, although pointed out that the panel which decides on individual suspensions – the NEC – has Scottish representatives on it.
The spokesperson added: “The Labour party has a robust validation process for all votes to ensure every vote cast is eligible in keeping with the Labour party rules. Decisions about individual members are taken by the NEC.
“Members who have been contacted by the Labour party to confirm they are not deemed eligible to vote can contact the party to obtain the evidence considered by the NEC.”
SNP MP Pete Wishart said: "Scottish Labour have spent the week telling us that it is an 'autonomous party', but it's a curious sort of 'autonomous' party that allows its membership arrangements to be dictated by another body.
"I'm pretty certain, though, that if the UK Labour 'purgers' are looking for examples of Scottish Labour members working with other parties their cups will over-floweth with a cursory glance at the activities of the Tory-led Better Together campaign."
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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