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Keir Starmer announces new commission on devolution

PA

Keir Starmer announces new commission on devolution

Labour leader Keir Starmer has announced a new UK-wide Constitutional Commission to consider proposals for pushing “as much power as possible away from Westminster”.

In his first major speech on the union, Starmer also said there should not be a referendum “while our economic and health outlook is so precarious”.

“No responsible first minister” would seek to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence in the first few years of the next Scottish Parliament, he said.

The Commission, to be set up by former prime minister Gordon Brown, will “champion devolution” and the UK but “will rule nothing out” beyond that, he said.

Starmer said: “This will be the boldest project Labour has embarked on for a generation, and every bit as bold and radical as the programme of devolution that Labour delivered in the 1990s and the 2000s.

“It will consider all parts of the United Kingdom. It will focus on delivering real and lasting economic and political devolution across our towns, our communities and to people across the country.”

He said the Scottish section of this work will be completed “as soon as possible,” with the support of Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard.

On the prospect of a second independent referendum, Starmer said: “It would be the entirely wrong priority to hold another Scottish independence referendum in the teeth of the deepest recession for 300 years, while still fighting this pandemic when there is such uncertainty about how Brexit and coronavirus will affect us.”

Speaking ahead of the statement, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “This isn’t leadership from Labour on the Union, this is the same old, tired argument that they’ve made before, and they’re offering nothing to challenge the SNP."

The Scottish Greens said the plan was “too late”. Co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “A decade ago a radical plan to reshape the UK might have taken the initiative. But in the absence of either competence or real democracy in the UK, it has become inevitable that more and more people would be ready for Scotland to go its own way.”

But the Scottish Lib Dems welcomed the plan. Leader Willie Rennie said: “There is a third way forward that doesn't involve the chaos of independence or the chaos of Boris Johnson but it will require hard work to build to a fully developed plan. To succeed we need to work in partnership with Labour and others once again. I commit the Liberal Democrats to doing just that.”

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