'Independence would be bad for Scotland' - Ian Murray launches UK deputy campaign

Labour's sole Scottish MP has launched his campaign to become deputy leader of the UK party, pledging he would focus on developing a new constitutional offer for the whole of the UK.
Ian Murray said that Labour had to become a party for the entire UK, caring about every nation and region. Picture: PAIan Murray said that Labour had to become a party for the entire UK, caring about every nation and region. Picture: PA
Ian Murray said that Labour had to become a party for the entire UK, caring about every nation and region. Picture: PA

Ian Murray said that Labour had to become a party for the entire UK, caring about every nation and region - but he reiterated his stance that independence would be "bad" for Scotland.

He said that communities across the country were "screaming out" for a Labour party offer which was credible, and that if he were to win the deputy leadership race, he would produce a "serious piece of work" laying out how the UK should be governed post-Brexit.

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Mr Murray added that independence would be "bad for Scotland", and that demands to split Scottish Labour from the UK party as also "wrong".

"Since our 2015 general election manifesto we've talked about a constitutional convention - I don't like the term but it's about listening to the public and trying to formulate a new way we govern all the nations and regions," he said.

“When you look at the result we've just had, all communities across the country are screaming out at us saying what is the Labour party offering us? I think we should be looking at a very serious piece of work - in opposition which we can take into government - about how we govern the whole of the UK."

He added: "It's also about saying the UK matters, that we're a UK party and we should be making sure that the UK is look at as an entity and how it works. The biggest problem is England - Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are already on a devolution journey, so where does England go next?

"Merseyside, Manchester, London all have devolution to an extent so we need to look at that - it might come to federalism but it goes wider - voting systems, the House of Lords, how we engage voters, it's a big piece of work and I think we should be doing that."

Asked how that could win independence voters in Scotland, he said: "The debate in Scotland is very binary - unionism or nationalism, independence or status quo. The Labour Party has always said there has to be a different way.

Devolution is Labour's baby and we need to nurture that, but we need to take it to the next stage. And it's not just about Scotland - Scotland's devolution journey is much further ahead than anywhere else, so how do we govern the rest of the UK in a post Brexit environment - that's the key question.

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"Scotland is a trailblazer and we have to get away from the binary viewpoint. England is the challenge, how you govern the vast majority or people in the country is the challenge."

The Edinburgh South MP launched his campaign in the Wester Hailes Education Centre, where he was once a pupil, and was introduced to the stage by a former deputy head Danny Costello.

He said he wanted to tell the story of how his "Labour values" developed as he grew up in the housing scheme, which in the 1980s was one of the most deprived places in Scotland, how his widowed mum was promised time and again by a Conservative MP she'd be rehoused - but never was - how he went to university at 16, worked as a kitchen porter before going on to run his own business, and then finally standing for election.

Stressing a theme of solidarity, Mr Murray also said that moves to separate the Scottish party from the UK Labour Party was the "wrong thing".

He said: "There's a big review going on in Scotland and therefore people are entitled to input into that what they feel, but it's the wrong thing to do. We cannot fall into this narrative that the opposition places on the party, that we're a branch office.

"Yes there have been problems with the current leadership - the John McDonnell stuff at the Festival the prime example [Mr McDonnell changed the stance on a second independence referendum] but the Scottish Labour Party has complete and utter autonomy in pretty much everything. We need to use that autonomy and it's up to the leadership in Scotland to take on that autonomy and use it.

"There's an election in 2021 and we're all naval gazing at the moment in terms of where the party has got to at a UK level but there's an opportunity now to fill in some of those blank pages, wipe the slate clean and start again.

"I'm really pleased Richard Leonard has committed himself to saying no to independence and no to a second independence referendum, that's hugely important. As is the Scottish Executive Committee's commitment to look at how we govern Scotland in the future, but that needs to go across the whole of the UK, it's not just a Scottish issue."

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Asked how he would prevent a repeat of Mr McDonnell's actions - when he unilaterally changed the party's policy on a second independence referendum - Mr Murray said: "As deputy leader it would never happen on my watch, as I'd be working very closely with the new leader. I'm in this to win it but if I don't I'm going to make sure that Scottish and constitutional issues are top of the agenda

"And I say this to all leadership and deputy leadership candidates, please don't come to Scotland and talk about things you're not quite sure what you're talking about. I wouldn't talk about anything that's happening in Salford where Rebecca Long-Bailey is the MP or Norwich where Clive Lewis is MP, without having spoken to them and being completely across the issues.”

He said he's already spoken about Scottish issues to leadership candidates Jess Philips and Keir Starmer - both of whom are due in Scotland in the next week and had an "outstanding date" to speak to Lisa Nandy.

He added: "My message to all candidates is come and listen to the membership and the public, and if you can do that you'll have a much better formulation of the biggest issue in Scottish politics."

Mr Murray said he would visit "seats the party won, seats it lost, and seats it will never win" if elected deputy to reach out to voters. He also said he would take "personal responsibility" for the party's complaints procedure, adopting a zero-tolerance approach to antisemitism and all forms of racism.

Mr Murray added: “I’m embarrassed about the cancer of antisemitism in our party. As deputy leader I will ensure a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment and antisemitism.

“I will take personal responsibility for the grievance and complaints process, and I will be held responsible for enforcing that zero-tolerance approach.

“Never again do I want any Jewish person to feel that they do not have a home in the Labour Party, that they can’t trust us to do the right thing, or that they feel our party would make the country a more dangerous place for them.

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“The Labour Party - that stood alongside Jewish people for generations - strayed from our historic values. And in many of the big fights over the past few years, the same has been true.

“We should be proud of what the last Labour government achieved in power, and we must now look to the future and stand up for what we believe in – co-operation, solidarity, and working together.”