Scottish Labour claim further devolution can seize Brexit “opportunities”


Labour leaders fear choice between Tory Hard Brexit and Scottish independence 

JEREMY CORBYN AND KEZIA DUGDALE have claimed that further powers for the Scottish Parliament are an “opportunity” in the midst of a Tory Hard Brexit. 

The Labour leaders north and south of the border came together today [Friday 20 January] for a rally setting out the party’s priorities on Brexit, inequality, and the constitution to members in Glasgow. 

However, both Corbyn and Dugdale are caught in respective constitutional binds of trying to reach voters irrespective of how they cast their ballots in the 2014 independence and 2016 EU referendums. 

Dugdale told the audience: “We need a more federal United Kingdom.”

“Instead of social chapter rights returning to the UK Parliament, they could return to our parliament here in Scotland. 

“They would then guarantee our employment rights with minimum standards guaranteed by being part of the UK.

Labour opposed devolution of the minimum wage and trade union rights during the Smith Commission and passage of the Scotland Act 2016.

“The same could be true of the minimum wage, with MSPs in Holyrood free to decide to raise the minimum wage above a UK minimum, if they wished. It would also mean further tax raising powers. Being part of the EU meant that VAT powers had to sit at Westminster. This could now change,” she said. 

Powers over agriculture and fisheries – devolved but regulated within the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) – were also raised as powers which “should return to the Scottish Parliament”. 

Corbyn reiterated his support for a UK-wide constitutional convention that included further devolution to Scotland. 

Labour opposed devolution of the minimum wage and trade union rights during the Smith Commission and passage of the Scotland Act 2016.

Tory prime minister Theresa May said the “right powers” would be devolved to Scotland as a result of Brexit – but did not name any examples. Tory Scottish secretary David Mundell speculated that it could include aspect of justice powers. 

However, the main warning from both leaders was of the dangers of a Hard Tory Brexit – which threatened tax revenue and the funding of public services outside the single market. 

Corbyn warned that the Tories “will hand more power to London elite and create a tax haven bargain basement Britain”. 

He said he was “not surprised” that many Scots supported independence, adding that “Scotland has the talent and the ability to run its own affairs” – but warned independence would bring significant financial challenges. 

Dugdale warned against “being presented with only one choice: Hard Brexit with the Tories or independence with the SNP.” 

Nicola Sturgeon rejected his comments on the financial position of an independent Scotland. 

Corbyn also refused to back the Scottish Government plan to keep Scotland – which voted strongly to remain in the EU – within the European Single Market. 

Sturgeon pointed out that his opposition to a Scottish compromise comes “just three days after Scottish Labour voted in the Scottish Parliament for Scotland to be allowed to remain in single market even if rUK leaves.”

Picture: CommonSpace

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