Starmer unveils mission to “preserve and renew” UK in devolution speech

Sienna Rodgers

Keir Starmer will declare that he is “determined” to “preserve and renew” the United Kingdom in a major speech on Scotland, devolution and the Union ahead of Holyrood elections taking place next year.

Delivering the JP Mackintosh Memorial Lecture on Monday, the UK Labour leader is expected to set the tone for Labour’s campaign for Scottish parliamentary elections in May by announcing the start of a new era of devolution.

Making the case for preserving the Union, Starmer will 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, which Starmer intends to make a cornerstone of his leadership, he is expected to 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.”

Promising “a positive alternative to the Scottish people”, the Labour leader will reiterate his view that “there’s a yearning across the United Kingdom for politics and power to be much closer to people”.

Starmer called in January during the Labour leadership election for a new federal structure in the UK that would aim to deliver a “radical devolution of power” and a “radical shake-up of the constitution”.

“The status quo is not working. People are crying out for more control, power and say over their own lives and local communities,” he said. “This can’t be delivered by tinkering around the edges or with short-term fixes.”

He added: “We need a new constitutional settlement… This will involve building a new long-term political and constitutional consensus. I believe that could best be built on the principle of federalism.”

Gordon Brown has also made the case this year for a “radical alternative to nationalism” in the form of a “constitutional revolution”, which the former Prime Minister said was needed in order to rescue the Union.

It was reported by The Herald earlier this month that Brown would be appointed to head a new UK-wide constitutional convention set up by the Labour Party. Scottish leader Richard Leonard favours the idea of such a convention.

“There needs to be work done through a constitutional convention. The Labour Party needs to demonstrate to the people of Scotland that we are serious about this reform agenda and we want to get on with it,” Leonard said.

“This is not something we are contemplating doing sometime down the line, it’s something that we are getting to work on straight away. In my view, the sooner that we can make progress on this, the better.”

John Pitcairn Mackintosh was a Scottish Labour politician who strongly advocated devolution to Scotland. The lecture was originally scheduled to be held on December 11th but was delayed due to Brexit.

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