Keir Starmer is expected to promise a “path to a socially just and secure, modern UK” as he launches a constitutional commission to spread “power, wealth and opportunity” out of Westminster.
In a key speech aimed at Scottish voters on Monday, the Labour leader will set out how Labour aims to deliver “real and lasting economic and political devolution across our towns, communities and to people across the country”.
Gordon Brown will advise the commission. The former Labour Prime Minister earlier this year made the case for a “radical alternative to nationalism” in the form of a “constitutional revolution” to rescue the union.
The commission has been billed as the “boldest project Labour has embarked on for a generation”, and its launch is intended to set the tone for Labour’s campaign in the run-up to 2021 Scottish parliamentary elections.
Using the JP Mackintosh Memorial Lecture to unveil the plans, Starmer is expected to say: “The case for the next phase of devolution was urgent before Covid, but the pandemic has put rocket boosters under it.
“Our Labour council leaders, mayors and metro mayors have stood up for their communities against a centralised ‘Westminster-knows-best’ response.
“A national crisis on this scale should have been the time for central government to work with and empower local communities to bring the country together.
“But too often the UK government’s approach has been to pit council against council, town against town, city against city, mayor against mayor.
“It’s no surprise that the many local leaders I’ve spoken to have felt distanced and ignored on decisions that have had huge consequences on people’s jobs, lives and their communities. This has got to change.
“That’s why I’m announcing today that in the new year, Labour will launch a UK-wide constitutional commission to consider how power, wealth and opportunity can be devolved to the most local level.”
Starmer recently revealed that the pandemic had changed his view of directly-elected mayors as he was “a bit wary about” them at first but thought they had been “the powerful voice of their communities” during Covid.
On the details of the commission, Starmer will tell the public on Monday: “This won’t be an exercise in shifting power from one parliament to another, of moving a few jobs out of London or to ‘devolve and to forget’.
“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 2000s.
“It will consider all parts of the UK and it will focus on delivering real – and lasting – economic and political devolution across our towns, our communities and to people across the country.”
Starmer will tomorrow promise to make a “fresh and tangible offer” to the Scottish people on devolution, in a bid to improve Labour’s standing ahead of the Holyrood elections being held on May 6th, 2021.
“It is Labour’s duty to offer a positive alternative to the Scottish people. To show that you don’t have to choose between a broken status quo and the uncertainty and divisiveness of separatism,” he will say.
With the SNP set for a majority and polls showing a majority for Scottish independence, Starmer will declare: “It is our duty – my duty – to make the alternative case for a devolved and a socially just Scotland in a modern UK.”
In 2014, Scotland voted 55% to 45% to remain a part of the UK. But the Labour leader’s speech on Monday follows a series of opinion polls that indicate a majority of voters in Scotland are now in favour of independence.
“Boris Johnson isn’t Britain, just as Nicola Sturgeon isn’t Scotland,” Starmer will add on Monday, saying he wants to “preserve and renew” the union. “The United Kingdom is much more than that, more than any individual.
“It has been before – and can be again – a great force for social justice, for security and for solidarity. And under my leadership, we will do everything we can to win back your trust in Labour, but equally importantly, in the UK.”
Polling conducted by Survation earlier this month on voting intention at the next Holyrood election showed a lead for the SNP on 53%, with both Labour and the Conservatives trailing behind on 20%.
Scottish Labour’s general secretary Michael Sharpe announced last week that he was quitting his post ahead of Scottish elections. He has been replaced by ex-MSP and GMB official Drew Smith on an interim basis.