THE SNP's trade union spokesman at Westminster has backed Len McCluskey in the Unite union leadership election because he has “good relations with the SNP” and “understands Scottish politics”.
Chris Stephens said SNP members in Unite should back McCluskey because he is “sympathetic” to a progressive alliance between Nicola Sturgeon's party and Labour to oust the Tory Government.
The plea to SNP members came as McCluskey brought his campaign for the union's leadership to Scotland, where he said he was running on his "record and vision.
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McCluskey met union members in Glasgow yesterday (Sat) to rally support for his campaign saying that urgent action is needed to boost the economy to help it withstand the impact of Brexit.
Speaking ahead of his speech, McCluskey said: "I always feel at home in Scotland. I've always had fantastic support from my members up here.
"I'm running on my record and vision and I'm confident that I will get the support of great men and women in Scotland and it will be a springboard to another successful campaign."
However, Stephens said McCluskey's attitude to the SNP meant the party's supporters should vote for him despite Unite's affiliation to the Labour Party, which it backs financially.
Stephens said: "If there is a chance of stopping the Tories staying in power, then there has got to be a discussion and Len has been very sympathetic to a progressive alliance and has good relations with the SNP."
The Glasgow South West MP's remarks came as McCluskey's supporters claimed a defeat by his 'Blairite' rival Gerard Coyne would mean the union taking a harder line in support of Trident and against Labour co-operation with the SNP.
McCluskey's campaign chiefs in Scotland issued the stark warning as the contest to lead the UK's biggest union grew increasingly bitter, with the vote of Unite's Scottish members knife-edge result expected.to be pivotal to the outcome.
Coyne is seeking to oust McCluskey, a leading trade union supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, and has sought to portray himself as a moderate candidate who would take a less active role in Labour politics than his opponent.
However, Stephens said pro-independence trade unionists such as the SNP trade union group, which has thousands of members, should vote for McCluskey if they are in Unite.
Stephens said: "The choice is quite simple. Len McCluskey understands Scottish politics better then most trade union general secretaries and there is a level of engagement between Unite and the SNP under his leadership.
"It would be sensible for SNP members who are in Unite to vote for Len."
McCluskey has previously suggested the SNP could help keep a minority Labour government in power if the Tories failed to win an overall majority at the next General Election and talked about the need for "pragmatism" under such circumstances.
In an interview with the Sunday Herald, McCluskey said an informal deal between the two parties may be needed, stating: "I do see Labour forming the next government not in coalition with the Greens or the SNP, but on the basis that Labour would be able to put together that a Queens speech that the Liberals and SNP would be able to support.”
Roza Salih, the SNP trade union group's equalities officer who is a Unite member, also stated her backing for McCluskey.
She said: "Despite being the leader of a Labour-supporting trade union he has listened to our views."
McCluskey's supporters group north of the Border, United Left Scotland, warned that Coyne would take a 'Blairite' position in support of retaining the Trident nuclear weapons system on the Clyde.
Coyne's election would also be a boost to the Scottish Labour leadership of Kezia Dugdale and the party's only MP in Scotland Ian Murray, by giving the party "an excuse not to be progressive", McCluskey's supporters added.
Under McCluskey's leadership Unite has sought to protect the jobs of workers at the Faslane base, but is not wholly supportive of nuclear weapons.
Jim Harte, chair of United Left Scotland, said that a Coyne victory was likely to see the union taking a more overtly pro-nuclear weapons stance. He said: "Coyne will attempt to entrench the policy on Trident.
"Len talks about jobs, but is not keen on Trident itself and favours diversification. But if Coyne were to win it would be backing Trident all the way."
Harte also said that under Coyne's leadership Unite would distance itself from such moves towards a 'progressive alliance' and that "all that would be under threat".
He added: "A Coyne victory would entrench Blairite values and the union leadership would distance itself from any form of nationalism or doing deals with nationalists.
A spokesperson for Coyne, who is Unite's West Midlands regional secretary, said he had a campaign team in Scotland and would visit "fairly soon".
Adding: "He's very anxious to defend jobs in defence and other sectors and to defend the right to strike."