Jim Murphy: Let’s work together
On Monday I took Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet out of Edinburgh and into Dundee. We were there to talk about delivering power to all of our cities.
This is a crucial issue for me as we look forward to building a Scotland meeting its economic potential and taking advantage of our resources – our people, our skills and our talents.
As a Glasgow boy I was delighted last year to see Labour-led Glasgow city council and the rest of the Clyde Valley region secure a City Deal that means huge investment in infrastructure and economic growth.
I do not say this to spike up old tensions between my home city and my capital city. I want City Deals for all of Scotland’s cities, and I believe Glasgow-Edinburgh as a city-region would challenge London and match Manchester for economic strength and opportunity.
This is an issue where Scotland is playing catch-up, as other parts of the UK are a now ahead of us when it comes to recognising the potential of devolution to city-regions.
Take, for example, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which has brought together ten local authorities to collaborate on economic growth.
The Smith Agreement means that huge new powers are coming to Scotland. The question is whether these should stay with the Scottish government, or whether we should see the devolution of power and funding to our cities to let them meet the unique challenges of their area.
Scottish Labour, of course, are the party of home rule and the party who delivered the Scottish Parliament. We see the opportunity of decisions being taken closer to home whilst retaining the opportunity and advantage that comes from being part of UK.
That principle is a one we hold true for our cities and our communities as well as our nation. That is why I want to see the work programme devolved to our cities immediately. I want to pay tribute to Edinburgh city council leader Andrew Burns who has been tireless in calling for this, and has worked with his colleagues from Glasgow and Aberdeen to press the UK Government to deliver.
A combination of a City Deal and further devolution of welfare to local communities offers almost unprecedented opportunities to do things differently. We shouldn’t have a one-size fits all approach to economic development.
The Scottish Parliament building and the headquarters of Edinburgh city council are separated by less than a mile, but the distance between their powers, responsibilities and potential to generate revenue are worlds apart.
And yet the council has a huge effect on the life of Edinburgh. It is the council which makes decisions about children’s schools and the social care for our elderly, vulnerable and disabled. I think that’s a great thing because they are best placed to understand the needs of their community.
That is why I want to see Devo Max within Scotland, the maximum devolution of power across Scotland with real job-creating powers making a difference. Let’s pass these new powers to the communities and cities that can make a real success of them. Government ministers sitting behind their ministerial desks don’t always know best.
• Jim Murphy is the Scottish Labour leader