Scottish Labour leader candidates warned of 'ugly' SNP

Iain Gray Iain Gray said the party had to win in the independence referendum debate

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Outgoing Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray has used his last conference speech to launch a stinging attack on the SNP.

He was addressing a special one-day meeting of the party in Glasgow, where the three candidates vying to replace him were also making their pitches.

Mr Gray warned them they would be smeared, lied about and threatened in "ugly" attacks by SNP supporters.

He also urged his party to "pick itself up again, look outward and go forward".

The special conference comes almost six months after Labour's heavy loss to the SNP in the Scottish Parliament elections.

About 500 delegates and senior Labour figures agreed to sweeping changes recommended following a post-election root-and-branch review led by Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy and Lothians MSP Sarah Boyack.

The role of a future Scottish leader has been beefed up, effectively distancing the party north of the border from Westminster.

Leadership timetable

Eastwood MSP Ken Macintosh, current deputy leader and Glasgow Pollok MSP Johann Lamont, and Glasgow South MP Tom Harris are the three candidates running for leadership.

Mr Gray warned them: "You will be attacked, you will be smeared, you will be lied about, you will be threatened.

"The 'cyber Nats' and the bedsit bloggers will call you traitor, quisling, lapdog, liar and worse.

"They will question your appearance, your integrity and your sexuality. They will drag your family and your faith into the lies and the vitriol. If you are a woman it will be worse."

Tom Harris, Johann Lamont and Ken Macintosh The Scottish Labour leadership candidates are Tom Harris, Johann Lamont and Ken Macintosh

SNP MSP Sandra White called the speech "bizarre".

"We wish Iain Gray well with the next stage of his career and hope that his successor will make a positive contribution to Scottish politics, learn from the last four years, heed the lessons of leading figures like Henry McLeish and Malcolm Chisholm and work in parliament in the best interests of the people of Scotland," she added.

The outgoing Labour leader also warned his party it must win in the Scottish referendum debate, and not fight to save the Union but to save devolution.

He said: "The people have decided that we should now debate the future of Scotland and whether it lies within the United Kingdom or not.

"We have to engage in that debate and we must win it.

"Because I believe with all my heart that Scotland is big enough, smart enough and rich enough in talent to stand with our comrades, friends, neighbours, workmates and family all across these islands."

The party has set its timetable for the leadership election and the three candidates took part in an afternoon hustings session at the conference.

Nominations open on Monday and close on Friday.

After that an electoral college of members, parliamentarians and affiliates will vote, with a new leader announced on 17 December.

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