Starmer says more powers for Holyrood would be ‘early priority’ if he becomes PM

During a visit to Glasgow, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said there should be reform of devolution ‘quickly’.

Tom Eden
Saturday 29 January 2022 14:55
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer spoke about devolution during a visit to Glasgow on Friday (John Linton/PA)
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer spoke about devolution during a visit to Glasgow on Friday (John Linton/PA)

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer wants more devolved powers for Holyrood “quickly” if he becomes Prime Minister.

Sir Keir has asked former prime minister Gordon Brown to recommend improvements to devolution across the United Kingdom to counter nationalist support for independence.

Speaking to the Daily Record, Sir Keir said giving the Scottish Parliament more powers would be an early priority for him, were he to become Prime Minister.

With Labour consistently polling ahead of the Conservatives, who are embroiled in sleaze scandals and the so-called partygate affair, Sir Keir has accused Boris Johnson’s Government of being “paralysed”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said every person he spoke to in Glasgow wanted Boris Johnson out of Downing Street (John Linton/PA)

Reflecting on his visit to Glasgow’s Forge Market on Friday, the Labour leader said: “We’ve been in the market, we’ve been walking around the streets.

“Every single person who has come up to me has said ‘you’ve got to get Johnson out’. Every single person.

“People recognise that we are now in a position to form a Labour government.”

Asked about his priorities, he argued that the Scottish and UK Governments are not doing enough to tackle the energy crisis and the soaring cost of living.

Sir Keir said: “I feel strongly that both Governments are looking the wrong way.

“Nicola Sturgeon is saying it’s the Referendum Bill that matters, (but) it should be the energy bill that matters. Johnson is spending his whole time defending himself against allegations of his own making.”

We need change without a referendum, but we need change quickly

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader

Sir Keir also said he wants to make a positive case for the Union, including reforming political institutions around the UK based on Mr Brown’s report.

Sir Keir added: “I’ve asked Gordon to look at the whole question of how we make the positive case for the Union, and that’s across the whole of the United Kingdom.

“Obviously there is a red line, which is we want to hold the Union together. That’s very important.

“But otherwise I am open-minded as to how we make the positive case for the Union.”

Asked whether he sees early implementation of the extra powers plan as an early priority for a Labour government, he said: “Yes, I do. I think it’s very important to settle that issue.”

He said: “We need change without a referendum, but we need change quickly.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (right) and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, helped by six-year-old Mirren, distribute food during a visit to the Baltic Street Adventure Playground and food hub in Glasgow (John Linton/PA)

Responding to the Labour leader’s comments, SNP deputy Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald said “the people of Scotland have already voted decisively for a referendum and Keir Starmer needs to respect that”.

“Just like Labour’s promises in 2014, Keir Starmer’s vague and undefined plans wouldn’t have prevented Scotland from being dragged out of the EU against our will, or prevent a Tory power grab on Holyrood,” she added.

“Only independence can fully protect our national interests.”

During the interview with the Record, the former director of public prosecutions contrasted his positive relationship with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar with the animosity between Mr Johnson, some of his Cabinet ministers and Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, who has repeatedly called on the Prime Minister to quit over the issue of Downing Street parties during lockdown.

“If you look at the way Anas and I work together, (it’s) a united team always in lockstop – me, properly respectful of Scottish Labour,” Sir Keir said.

“Contrast that with the Tories, where you’ve got Jacob Rees-Mogg calling Douglas Ross a lightweight.

“I think that it shows disdain for Scotland and it is further evidence that the Conservative Party is not capable of holding the Union together.”

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