SCOTTISH Labour leader Jim Murphy is planning to seize the word Yes from the independence movement in a bid to save his party from general election meltdown.


The Sunday Herald can reveal the working title for Murphy's campaign to win back former backers is 'Yes for Labour'.

He told this newspaper that Yes supporters who sympathise with his party are "the most important voters in the UK".

However, SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie dismissed the plan as a "transparent political stunt".

Opinion polls have forecast electoral disaster for Scottish Labour in May, with some snapshots predicting the party will fall from 40 seats to single figures.

A poll commissioned by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft found the Nationalists ahead in fifteen out of sixteen battleground seats, including six of the seven Glasgow constituencies polled.

According to the analyses, Yes voters are uniting behind the SNP while No voters are scattered between the three mainstream pro-UK parties.

Key to Murphy's strategy is contacting the 190,381 voters who backed Labour at the 2010 general election, but who voted for independence last year.

A large proportion of these voters are believed to be males living in the west of Scotland.

It is understood senior party figures intend to launch the Yes for Labour campaign later this month,

Daniel Johnson, the party's Holyrood candidate in Edinburgh Southern and a Murphy ally, is said to be heavily involved in the campaign.

On January 14th, he registered a batch of websites as part of the project, including 'Yes for Labour', 'Yes for Scottish Labour' 'Yes Scottish Labour' and 'Yes Labour'.

A Holyrood source told this newspaper that MSPs had been asked to identify Labour-friendly Yes voters who would be willing to go public with their support.

It is believed an event will be staged to unveil Yes backers who will mark their cross for Labour.

Senior Labour figures were frustrated that the referendum question - Should Scotland be an independent country? - left the party with the task of campaigning for a No proposition, rather than a Yes option.

Some in the party would have preferred the question to ask whether voters wanted Scotland to stay in UK, which would have meant Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats campaigning for Yes.

Labour insiders said the SNP was able to fight an upbeat and optimistic campaign last year, unlike the No side that was on the side of rejection.

One insider said: "By calling the campaign Yes for Labour, we'd be reclaiming a word we should never have conceded."

Speaking to this newspaper at a youth cafe in Edinburgh yesterday, Murphy said of the Yes voters he has identified:

"The election in Scotland will be largely decided by that group of people. And the election in Scotland will decide the outcome across the UK, so they are the most important voters in the UK, this 190,381."

He added: "We are going to do more about this in the next few weeks, where you'll see the types of thing we are talking about. But it would be wrong to exclusively tell the Sunday Herald the kind of detail of our plans."

The leaked slogan marks the latest stage in Murphy's attempt to recast his party's Scottish credentials.

He recently won for approval for amending Scottish Labour's constitution by describing his party as working "for the patriotic interest".

However, although Murphy claimed he was re-writing Clause 4 - with clear echoes of Tony Blair's iconic move in 1994 - it emerged he had re-drafted a different section and then persuaded his party's executive to renumber the clauses.

Murphy also tried to reach out to Yes voters by saying he did not consider himself to be a Unionist.

He and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown also promised to give Holyrood more welfare powers than was recommended by the Smith Commission.

If Labour wins in May, Westminster would give Holyrood the power to top up the state pension and other elements of the benefits system.

Hosie said: "If Jim Murphy thinks a transparent political stunt will be enough to make people forget his party's toxic alliance with the Tories, he really needs to go back to the drawing board. People will never forget or forgive Labour joining forces with the Tories, which will continue to haunt them for years to come.

"No matter how much Jim Murphy wishes he could - he simply can't wish away the two and a half years in which he campaigned shoulder to shoulder with a right-wing Tory government. Labour's problem is that people in Scotland just cannot trust them any more - and a desperate new slogan dreamed up amidst disastrous polling figures isn't going to change that."

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "I think this is comical, as a single word can't change perceptions. Labour has to tell people what they are about, which has not been clear for a long time. The substance of the word Yes depends on what you are saying Yes to. People will be pretty cynical about this."

Asked whether the party was working on a campaign called 'Yes for Labour', a Scottish Labour spokesman said: "I have nothing to say on that."