Kezia Dugdale Scottish Labour leader
Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale has been criticised by the Scottish Conservative leader for not fully supporting Scotland's membership of the UK Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has said that she is in a relationship with a woman, as part of a wide-ranging interview that raises questions as to whether her party supports Scottish independence. Speaking to the Fabian Review, a publication from the socialist think-tank Fabian Society, 34 year-old Dugdale said: "I have a female partner. I don't talk about it much because I don't feel I need to."

The young politician said that she keeps her relationship private, because it enables her to remain "serene" in her stressful job. "I need a bit of stability... that means my private life is my private life. That's the thing I just have to have that nobody gets to touch, and that gives me the strength to be calm elsewhere."

Dugdale's sudden revelation about her sexuality comes after she was criticised for supporting a second referendum for Scottish independence by a rival party leader in a televised debate. During the STV debate, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the decision whether to hold another referendum on Scottish independence was "in the hands" of the Scottish people.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said this showed Sturgeon did not "respect" the result of the 2014 referendum. She went on to accuse Dugdale of not fully supporting Scotland's membership of the UK, despite the Scottish Labour leader saying her party does not back a second independence referendum.

In her interview, published on 1 April, Dugdale repeated that Labour will not introduce another independence referendum and would "vote against one if it's introduced by any other party". She added that she would personally "vote to stay in the UK in any future referendum".

Independence ambivalence

However, when asked whether she would continue to support Scotland being a member of the UK in the event of Brexit, Dugdale became ambivalent.

Saying that it was possible to "argue for two unions at the same time", she admitted, "I see tremendous benefits from the EU to Scotland, so I would do whatever I could to preserve and promote that. The same argument applies to the UK. I would very much like both those unions to stay."

Yet when pressed by the interviewer Mary Riddell, Dugdale said that her supporting Scottish independence was "not inconceivable" as her priority is Scotland's welfare: "I really wouldn't like to choose, because what I want to do is the best possible thing for Scotland. [I would be] putting Scotland first."

Dugdale has become the fourth leader of a Scottish political party who is openly LGBT. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson is openly gay; Patrick Harvie of the Scottish Green party is bisexual; and David Coburn, leader of Ukip Scotland, identifies as homosexual.