NICOLA Sturgeon is using votes the SNP received at the General Election in support of their opposition to Brexit to "fuel the grievance of independence,” Ian Murray has claimed as the Scottish candidate for Labour’s deputy leadership warned his party that it was facing a cliff-edge.

The MP for Edinburgh South, who launched his campaign this week, will join his rivals as well as those candidates for the leadership at the first party hustings in Liverpool today.

In an exclusive interview with The Herald, Mr Murray, who is up against the favourite Angela Rayner for the deputy’s role, explained one reason why he survived the SNP landslide and his six Labour colleagues did not.

“In my seat the SNP and Lib Dem candidates couldn’t be more pro-EU than me. I set up the People’s Vote campaign…Even Nationalists, through gritted teeth, appreciated what I was doing on Europe and I was passionate about it.”

Coupled with his forceful opposition to the Conservatives and the Nationalists’ demand for independence, Mr Murray eased home with an 11,000-plus majority.

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With Brexit the dominant factor in the election, he suggested in other seats Remainers, opposed to independence, backed the SNP candidate “to articulate their pro-Europeanness”.

“But,” he argued, “those two votes are now being used, appropriated, as a mandate for independence…to fuel the grievance of independence for Nicola Sturgeon. There is a bit of anger and frustration about that.”

Mr Murray, 43, played down the call by some to establish a campaign to “rejoin” the EU, saying the reality was that Britain would leave the EU on January 31 and the country would have to consider how things panned out.

But he was keen to stress: “There is no hiding place from Boris’s Brexit bulls**t because anything that happens between now and when we leave, and beyond when we leave, is firmly at his door.”

As Labour goes through its long post-mortem on its terrible election defeat, the Labour stressed his party was “not at a crossroads, a cliff-edge”.

“We are sitting in the car with the engine running at the edge of the cliff and we have an opportunity to hit reverse or we can slam into first gear and put our foot on the mushroom - that’s a French phrase for slam the accelerator - and become a perpetual and reducing influence as a party of opposition.”

Needless to say, Mr Murray prefers the former option.

But he is clear what went wrong at the election. The party had the right analysis but the wrong policies, the wrong leader in Jeremy Corbyn, was confused over the indyref2 process and faced two ways on the key issue of Brexit. In a nutshell, Labour lacked credibility.

“Throwing sweets around is the last thing a party does when they know they're going to lose. And they knew they were going to lose because the Shadow Cabinet was told and they still voted for an election.” Told, that is, by the voters and by all the data.

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The Scot’s relationship with the party leader has been notoriously fractious; to the extent that even when Mr Murray was the only Labour MP in Scotland, Mr Corbyn looked elsewhere to fill the role of Shadow Scottish Secretary; first to David Anderson, the former MP for Blaydon, and now to Tony Lloyd, who represents Rochdale.

The current leader’s ventures to Scotland during the election raised hackles, not least among those in the Labour team because of Mr Corbyn’s constantly shifting emphasis over when a Labour Government would facilitate a second independence referendum.

“The reason we have been squeezed on the constitution is we have had nothing to say. So, we have to be a) positive about the Union, b) make the arguments about why independence will be bad for Scotland and for the UK and c) make the arguments about the alternative, which is to seriously look at how we govern the whole of the UK, including England.”

One of the Scot’s pledges if he becomes leader, is to initiate a full constitutional review, looking at not only the Union issue but also how to improve devolution and reform the House of Lords. He appeared not to share his colleague Richard Leonard’s enthusiasm for federalism, noting: “Until you sort out England, it doesn’t really matter.”

He explained: “Governance is an incredibly dull and boring issue but it’s crucial…There is no question the London Mayor, the metro areas of Merseyside and Manchester have been huge successes; other areas not quite so…Think of the economic and political benefit of Scotland, the north-east, the Midlands working together on how they drive economic development on transport, digital, etc and do it on the basis as the UK rather than Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales as four units of the family of nations.”

Mr Murray argued not only was the constitutional question the biggest one in Scotland but also the biggest one in England because of Brexit.

“Scottish Nationalism is now infecting the rest of the UK - take back control, we don’t get the governments we vote for - all that narrative is exactly the same one for Boris Johnson and Michael Gove regards Brexit as it is with Nicola Sturgeon regards Scotland.”

The candidate insisted the party had to look to the future, not the past. “What does Scotland look like in 20 years’ time? For the Nationalists Scotland looks like – let’s have a referendum…For Labour and its values, we have to articulate what Scotland under a Labour government should look like in 20 or 30 years’ time.”

In this regard, he made clear it was important he got enough local party and trade union support to get his name on the final ballot paper so the right questions were asked and answered, including “what do we do about Scotland?”

Pressed if he was confident of getting his name on the ballot and of then becoming deputy leader, Mr Murray avoided giving a straight answer. “I’m in it to win it.”