Analysis: Labour's plan to save the union assumes devolution does not mean difference

There is nothing wrong with wanting your party to win elections. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with wanting your party to be in power across the UK.

However, basing your entire solution to the constitutional future on the United Kingdom on the premise that everywhere should have a Labour government is setting up that solution for failure before it gets a chance to succeed.

This is the central issue with the Gordon Brown plan for the future of devolution within the UK which will be rubber-stamped, thrown into the manifesto, repeated ad nauseum during election campaigns, and then get superceded by more pressing matters of Westminster and left on a shelf.

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But first the positives. This is a report which demonstrates that Labour, or at least Gordon Brown, gets it. He’s listening the British public who, on the whole, are desperate for change. Labour, up until the Truss government, have been remarkably incapable of diverting that desire for change into a political narrative in their favour, but they are getting there.

Keir Starmer will set out Labour's new vision for the constitutional future of the UK today.

Brown’s tome is an acceptance Britain is not working and requires the extraction of deep-rooted constitutional deadweights such as the House of Lords. In terms of the union, it’s the first vaguely coherent case for a renewed UK we have had from any unionist in decades.

However, it is a damning indictment of the devolution settlement Brown and his colleagues ushered in at the turn of the millennium.

It accepts at its central premise that the institution of Westminster has failed the majority of the UK, and that the institution of devolution did not rebalance that enough. Undermined by successive disruptive influences, of which Nicola Sturgeon is one, that original settlement has left Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland adrift, without serious influence, and at the mercy of a House of Commons which has votes to win in the South East.

The solutions offered, however, make the same mistake. Devolution should not mean difference, is Labour’s message. Instead it should mean cooperation, shared aims and approaches, all ultimately controlled and defined by the major partner, England.

With a Labour governments across the UK, that works. Without, the possibility of conflict, division and expectations of subservient nations are self-evident.

Proof will be in the delivery pudding.

Want to hear more from The Scotsman's politics team? Check out the latest episode of our political podcast, The Steamie.

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