Jeremy Corbyn pledges to win back Labour support in Scotland

Labour lost 40 of its 41 seats in this year's General Election

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Jeremy Corbyn has made his first official visit to Scotland as Labour leader, pledging to "win back support" for the party following the SNP's crushing general election victory. 

Arriving in Edinburgh just four months after Labour lost 40 of its 41 Scottish MPs in May, Mr Corbyn said the party was "doing great".

He embarked on a series of meetings with Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, MSPs, trade unions, council leaders and local activists.

In his only comments to the pack of journalists outside the Scottish Parliament, he said: "We're doing great, party membership is going up after my first conference as leader and things are going really well."

Speaking ahead of his trip Mr Corbyn said there was "no question" of him treating Scottish Labour as a "branch office" - an accusation levelled by former leader Johann Lamont against party bosses in London.

His arrival in Scotland had been keenly anticipated and groups of teenagers mingled with the press and public wondering who could have attracted this level of interest.

A group of teenage schoolchildren from the Lenzie Academy, Glasgow, arriving at Parliament with German exchange students, had all heard the 66-year-old was going to be in town.

However, the Labour leader was in no mood to answer questions from the media scrum after he emerged from Parliament. 

Mr Corbyn was so keen to head straight to his next appointment with MSPs that he left Ms Dugdale trailing in his week at one point, apologising to her when she finally caught up with him as be posed for photographs outside the Our Dynamic Earth science centre.

After the photo op - where he was prodded by photographers into waving at another group of onlooking primary school children - he was pushed along, literally, by an aide, 150 yards to the Serendipity Cafe to give a speech and meet MSPs.

Along the way were David and Angela Hall, on holiday from Manchester with their baby Olivia, who Mr Corbyn was happy to stop and speak to.  

"Talk to my sister Jennifer," Mrs Hall said thrusting her mobile into Mr Corbyn's hands.

"You must come to Edinburgh and visit," the Labour leader said down the phone. "It's lovely here."

Mr Hall, a trainer in social care, praised Mr Corbyn "for bringing some humanity back into politics, which is sorely needed".

Not everyone was pleased to see him. After one woman shouted: "Well done Jeremy, you can turn Scotland Labour again," a naysayer shot back immediately: "No he can't."

Mr Corbyn has already claimed Labour's demise in Scotland was caused in part by its involvement in the cross-party Better Together campaign, as well as its failure to offer an alternative to austerity.

He has been light on alternative policy details to date and Mr Corbyn's refusal to answer questions looked like it was running off on his Scottish colleagues later in the afternoon with almost all MSPs refusing to say how their cafe meeting with the leader had gone.

Former Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray was among the tight-lipped politicians filing out of the room and quickly shuffling off into the distance.

Finally, Lothian MSP Neil Findlay stopped and said Mr Corbyn had received an "excellent" reception inside and was "very positive" after the effects the new leader will have on Scottish Labour. "People are delighted to see him in Scotland," he said, denying that Labour is a divided party under their new leader.

Referring to reported differences between Mr Corbyn and his party, such as on the Trident nuclear deterrent, Mr Findlay said: "For years political parties have tried to stop people debating, giving the impression that everyone thinks the same way but that's not the case. That's not the way politics works and that's not the way society works."

He acknowledged that Scottish Labour had a huge challenge ahead of it in the run up to next year's elections as it tries to improve on its 38 seats and take back majority party status from the SNP, who have 64 members.

Polls suggest Nicola Sturgeon's party are on track to win a second majority term at Holyrood in the Scottish elections in seven months. It may take several more trips north of the Border for Jeremy Corbyn to prevent that scenario from happening.

 

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