JIM Murphy has sought to draw a line under the referendum and widen his appeal as Scottish Labour leader by declaring he has "never been a Unionist".


The MP - one of the most high profile campaigners for a No vote last year - said he came from a different political tradition from Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters of the Union.

Discussing his opposition to independence at a press lunch in Edinburgh yesterday, he insisted his own politics drew on a Labour tradition of trade unionism and socialist solidarity with workers around the UK.

With the general election four months away, Mr Murphy is aiming to win back 190,000 voters who backed Labour in 2010 but who voted in favour of independence in the referendum.

In a bid to appeal to the key group, he has already stressed Scottish Labour's autonomy from the UK party and positioned it as a patriotic force putting the country first.

His latest comments were mocked by the SNP.

MSP Sandra White said: "If it walks like a unionist and talks like a unionist, it is a unionist - and Jim Murphy will never sound like anything else."

Mr Murphy was asked yesterday whether his patriotism strategy might undermine support for the Union in the long term.

He said: "I've never been a Unionist. It's not my political tradition.

"As a family of Irish Catholic immigrants we are not Unionists.

"I grew up in a family of trade unionists but not political Unionists.

"What happened in the referendum, without rerunning it, was that you had a temporary alignment of two different Unionist traditions.

"You had a Conservative and Unionist tradition within the Conservative Party and elements of the Liberal Democrats and you had a trade unionists and socialist solidarity tradition inside the Labour Party.

"For a moment there was an alignment for different reasons of political culture and history."

He said the alliance ended with the referendum and Labour now sought to mobilise a new "coalition of voters" to defeat the Conservatives at the general election in May.

Mr Murphy played a leading role in the pro-UK

Better Together campaign.

He toured100 high streets in the final three months of the campaign, addressing crowds from an upturned Irn Bru crate.

Though a staunch defender of the Union, his stance is similar to that of Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie, a prominent independence campaigner and director of Yes Scotland, who consistently denied he was a Nationalist.

Labour trail the SNP by nearly 20 percentage points and face huge losses on May 7 unless they can rebuild support.

In a bid to woo target voters Mr Murphy has launched steps to rewrite Scottish Labour's constitution, including a pledge to work "for the patriotic interest" of the people of Scotland.

He also provoked a backlash from Labour colleagues and Tory opponents down south last week after announcing plans to fund 1000 extra nurses with revenue from Ed Miliband's proposed mansion tax, which would largely affect properties in London.

Yesterday he dismissed suggestions his approach would assist the SNP in the long run, saying: "That's neither here nor there.

"I'm interested in what's right for Scotland and right for the Labour Party."

In a plan borrowed from the SNP government, the East Renfrewshire MP revealed his shadow cabinet is to embark on a tour of Scotland, starting in Dundee on Monday, in a bid to engage with voters.

He said the general election would not be won on social media.

"There is a premium in continuing to have real conversations.

"There are about 75,000 Scots on Twitter, that's a very small bubble.

"There is a big Scotland beyond Twitter," he said.

He also played down speculation about a possible power-sharing deal between Labour and the SNP if Nicola Sturgeon's party holds the balance of power after the election.

He said: "We don't expect, we don't need, we don't want, and we are not planning for a coalition with the SNP or anyone else.

"That's our approach and we have been quite consistent about it."

SNP MSP Ms White said: "With Labour struggling in the polls, it's no wonder that Jim Murphy is desperate to rewrite history and try to distance himself from the Tories - who Labour spent two years working hand in glove with in the referendum.

"Does Jim Murphy really expect people to believe that despite having spent the entire referendum campaign arguing for a No vote, he does not believe in the union?"