LABOUR leadership candidate Jim Murphy will today call for “devo max within Scotland”, arguing that transferring powers from Edinburgh to local communities can help his party win back trust.
With new powers to be transferred to Holyrood as a result of the Smith Commission, which was set up to look at further devolution in the wake of the independence referendum, Mr Murphy is pledging to hand over some of them to councils and other bodies.
He said that if he was first minister he would devolve the work programme to local communities, and would also give them more powers over welfare.
The Smith Commission last week recommended devolving some benefits to the Scottish Parliament, along with giving MSPs the power to top up payments and even create new benefits in areas that are reserved.
In a speech in Glasgow today, Mr Murphy, a former Scottish secretary, will say: “Devolving welfare power across Scotland can trigger prosperity and tackle poverty.
“I want to see ideas and innovation flourish right across Scotland. So here’s what I will do.
“I will devolve the work programme to local communities. Councillors, charities and local organisations working together in different parts of Scotland are far better placed to end the cycle of worklessness and deprivation than the Government in Edinburgh.”
He will argue that where the welfare system is concerned, “the most powerful way to change is for central government in Edinburgh to give away the new constitutional powers it is gaining”.
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Mr Murphy will add: “As we implement the Smith Agreement we should seek to bring these new powers as close to local communities as is possible.
“We should devolve not just to councils but also to local coalitions involving councils, business, charities and other government agencies like the NHS.
“I don’t want a one-size-fits-all welfare state within Scotland.”
Mr Murphy is standing against Labour Holyrood health spokesman Neil Findlay and former Scottish Executive minister Sarah Boyack to take over the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party after Johann Lamont stepped down following the referendum.
He will say that as he has travelled across Scotland campaigning, he has been “taken aback at how strongly people felt about the centralisation of power with the Edinburgh Government”.
Mr Murphy will go on to claim that the current SNP Government in Edinburgh has “centralised power in an unprecedented way”.
He will say: “In truth, all governments of all persuasions have a centralising instinct but in a post devolution Scotland no Scottish Government has acted on this scale.
“So if amassing power centrally has been the characteristic of the SNP Government I want Scottish Labour to do the opposite.
“To win back people’s trust Scottish Labour must show that we do not simply want power for our own interests.
“I want Scotland to gain new responsibilities so that we can spread them across the country and I want Scottish Labour to win power so that we hand it back again.”
Mr Murphy will say: “It makes no sense to just transfer powers from one capital city, London, to another capital city, Edinburgh.
“We need to go further. My motto is ‘devo max’ within Scotland. Not for ideological reasons or to continue on the debate about where power lies, but so that we can just get on and make a difference in communities across Scotland.”
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