Starmer asks Brown to lead devolution project
Sir Keir Starmer: no place for borders
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has appointed former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to advise on a project to devolve more power across the UK and head off calls for Scottish independence.
The work will focus on handing “real and lasting economic and political devolution across our towns, communities and to people across the country”, Sir Keir will say in a keynote speech on Monday.
He is promising “a positive alternative to the Scottish people” by preserving and renewing the United Kingdom.
Sir Keir will set out his views on the constitution in a keynote speech which will also set the tone for next year’s Scottish election campaign.
The speech was meant to be delivered earlier this month at Edinburgh University but was cancelled when the Labour leader was forced to self-isolate after a Labour employee contracted the coronavirus.
Gordon Brown: will lead project (pic: Terry Murden)
Sir Keir will commit Labour to the union at a time when there are calls from within the party for a shift of direction, given the growing support for independence and the SNP’s strong lead in the opinion polls.
A new poll has shown 58% of people would back Scottish independence in a referendum – a record-equalling high.
The poll, conducted by Savanta ComRes, is the 17th in a row to have shown a majority for independence.
Labour, which set up the Scottish Parliament in 1999, has not held power in Holyrood since 2007 and currently has just one MP representing a Scottish constituency.
Setting out a new era of devolution, Sir Keir will pledge that the next Labour manifesto will “aim to win power, in order to push as much power as possible away from Westminster.”
The Labour leader will argue that the richness of the UK is measured not only in power or prosperity, but by shared “history, values and identity” that has made borders obsolete.
He will say the UK is shaped by “the amazing things we’ve achieved together” – and that the only way to create an “open, more optimistic and outward-looking country” is together.
He will set out how the next phase of devolution can build a more democratic and socially just Scotland in a modern United Kingdom.
Promising “a positive alternative to the Scottish people”, the Labour leader will recognise the need to build on Labour’s long tradition of promoting and implementing devolution as a vehicle for social justice.
Calls for independence are growing
On the United Kingdom, he is expected to say: “Our nations are bound by our history, values and our identity.
“Our families live across borders and our businesses operate across borders. We’re interconnected and we’re interdependent.
“That’s not just a precious inheritance or a description of the past, it’s what we are. It’s what I want for our children, for the next generation.
“I don’t believe in putting up borders across any part of our United Kingdom.
“In dividing people, communities, and families who have stood together for so long.
“I believe in that core Labour principle that we achieve more together than we do alone.
“All four nations working together to build a more open, more optimistic and outward-looking country. A United Kingdom that’s a force for social justice and a moral force for good in the world.
“That’s why I’m so determined to preserve and to renew the United Kingdom.”
On devolution, he will add: “I want devolution and social justice to be the hallmarks of the next Labour government.
“I may be the first person ever to run to be Prime Minister of this country on a manifesto that will aim to win power and then push as much of that power as possible away from Westminster.
“Because there’s a yearning across the United Kingdom for politics and power to be much closer to people.”