Kezia Dugdale has revealed she might vote for independence in another referendum, saying she has “certainly moved” on the issue.

As leader of Scottish Labour, Ms Dugdale said the party would “never support independence” or a second referendum while she was in charge.

But speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Ms Dugdale said she would “decide at the time” of Indyref2, although she was not ready to vote Yes at present.

She said she now better understood the case for independence and could not defend the Union as vigorously as she had in 2014.

But she said her goal was to tackle poverty and reduce inequality and redistributing the wealth generated in London and South East England was still key to doing so.

First elected to Holyrood in 2011, Ms Dugdale led Scottish Labour from 2015 to 2017.

She quit as an MSP in 2019 to become director of the John Smith Centre for Public Service at Glasgow University.

Last year she married Jenny Gilruth, then SNP transport minister and now the Scottish Government’s education secretary.

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Appearing alongside veteran journalists Lesley Riddoch and Ruth Wishart, Ms Dugdale joked the couple’s new puppy, Wallace, was a sign of her changing views. 

She said: “I certainly understand the case for independence much better than I did in the past. That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate the strength with which many people held that view in 2014. 

“But now I'm surrounded by Nationalists - in a very good way - and we talk about these issues all the time. And actually there’s a lot of common bonds.

“The vision that we have for Scotland is one which is free of poverty, free of inequality, where people can prosper and be who they want to be. 

“You just have different arguments, different routes, of how to get there. 

“And that's the conversation I want to have in Scotland now, looking at some of the big challenges that still lie ahead of us. 

“We've got an ageing population. That’s a huge challenge to the Scottish Parliament, it’s a huge challenge for the UK Government. 

“And I would much rather focus more on the social policy side of that rather than what I always see as a very binary, tired conversation about the Constitution.”

Asked if she thought that Scotland would be an independent nation state within a decade, Ms Riddoch, a Yes supporter, said she thought it would because people in the British Isles felt fed up with a UK government led by a “cruel, pointless party”.

However Ms Dudgale said she didn’t think Scotland would be independent on that time-scale, as neither the Tories nor Labour would concede Indyref2.

The Herald:

“I don't think Scotland will have the chance to have its say again,” she said.

“I’m outwith party politics now, and I focus very much on social policy.

“But if you're presented with a binary choice between an independent Scotland in a progressive Europe or little Boris Brexit Britain, I know where my cards would fall down.

“I also know that I couldn’t argue with the same strength for the Union that I did in 2014. 

“Now, that doesn't mean I'm ready to vote Yes.

“I still think there are big, big questions that we need to debate as a country and resolve.

“So I have moved. I’ve certainly moved and I think we have to keep talking about some of these big issues in the country, but not just purely through that Yes-No lens.

“About the type of Scotland we want to live in and how we get to that point. 

“I think that's how you get people to think about changing their minds because we're so deep rooted in our own tribes right now. We are very restricted by that.”

Asked if she was less tribal than she was, Ms Dugdale said: “Very much so.”

Ms Dugdale, who quit the Labour party in 2019 over its acceptance of Brexit and has not returned, said she feared Sir Keir Starmer would not do all she wanted if he became PM, but she would still vote Labour at the general election to get rid of the Conservatives.

She said: ”I do think a Labour Government will make a tremendous difference. 

“It might not bring you everything that you want, but it will, I think, lead to great change, in social change in particular.

“It will take time. They're not going to do everything instantly. 

“But I just think the shoulders in the country will go back and the heads will go up when the Tories are out of office and that's why I'll still be voting Labour in the general election.”

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Asked if she would be voting Yes or No if there was another independence referendum, she said: “I will decide at the time.”

Ms Wishart, who was chairing the discussion, tutted: “What a bloody cop-out.”

In 2021, former Scottish Labour First Minister Henry McLeish told the Herald that he would support independence if the Union failed to reform itself.