Kezia Dugdale has revealed she once voted for the SNP because she was “so mad about Brexit”, contributing to an historically awful result for Scottish Labour.

The former Scottish Labour leader told the BBC she backed the vehemently anti-Brexit Nationalists in the European election of May 2019, but had backed Labour in elections since.

At the time, Scottish Labour was led by Ms Dugdale’s left-wing successor Richard Leonard, while the UK party was under Jeremy Corbyn, neither of whom had a clear Brexit position.

The election was one of the most bizarre the country had ever seen, as the MEPs elected lost their jobs eight months later when the UK left the European Union.

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Then Tory prime minister Prime Minister Theresa May had wanted to avoid the UK taking part in the election, but delays to her Brexit deal meant she could not avoid it.

Across the UK, the election was won by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, followed by the Liberal Democrats, Labour, Greens and Tories in terms of MEPs.

It was the worst ever result for Labour and the Tories, who lost 10 of 20 MEPs and 15 of 19 MEPs respectively, as their vote share collapsed.

In Scotland, Labour fared even worse, coming fifth and losing both its MEPs while the SNP took three, with one each for the Brexit Party, LibDems and Tories. 

Ms Dugdale, who led Scottish Labour from 2015 to 2017 and is now director of the John Smith Centre at the University of Glasgow, spoke to BBC Radio 4 for a forthcoming documentary on the coming general election fight in Scotland.

She said: “I voted SNP once in my life and that was in the European Union elections immediately after Brexit, where I was so mad about Brexit, I wanted to register a vote for them. And for that reason alone.

“I felt I could vote for the SNP in that European Union election, because that in no way could be construed as a vote for independence. I felt that that was a safe thing to do.

I voted Labour in every election since then, from the council to the Scottish Parliament, to the general election, I have used a vote for Labour.”

Ms Dugdale, who is no longer a party member, is married to SNP Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth.

Last August, she said her stance on independence had “moved” as she could no longer argue as strongly for the Union as in 2014, but was not ready to vote Yes in a referendum.

The BBC also spoke to current Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who said he believed 28 of Scotland’s 57 seats are “in play” at the general election.

He said: “I think the tipping point in Scotland is around 35% – if we get around 35% in the polls then we are in competition to beat the SNP.

“If I said that to anybody two-and-a-bit years ago, they would have thought I was deluded. But I have always believed that’s what we can do.”

First Minister Humza Yousaf, who will be under pressure to quit if the SNP fails to win a majority of seats, said he was not afraid of polling day.

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He said: “I don’t fear a general election at all. I see it’s a huge opportunity. 

“There’s no getting away from the fact that 2023 was a difficult year. But the general election presents an opportunity because, ultimately, a general election will be and should be a battle of ideas. And I think the SNP is strongest when it’s talking about policy.”

Tory MSP Craig Hoy said: “ProUnion voters will be dismayed that a former Labour leader could vote SNP and betray the Union so easily. This is even more evidence that you can’t get a cigarette paper between the SNP and Labour as on a wide range of key issues.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Labour said: “There is an overwhelming majority in Scotland and across the UK for change. That means Scotland can lead the way in getting rid of the Tories and maximising Scotland’s influence in the UK.

“Our message to all voters is the same - we don’t care how you voted in the past. We are the only party in this country trying to persuade anyone and to unify it around change.”