Lisa Nandy, a former shadow energy secretary, insisted Scots were better off by being in the UK but admitted her party had failed to make a persuasive argument ahead of the 2019 general election.
The MP for Wigan addressed Labour members at a campaign event in Glasgow last night after earlier visiting a McVitie’s biscuit factory in the city’s Tollcross district.
In a Q&A session, Nandy described the frustrations of campaigning ahead of the poll last December which saw Labour record its worst performance at a UK election in the post-war era.
“I think we are lacking a unifying message,” she said. “When you knock on doors, people say: what’s the point of you lot? I don’t know what to say. Labour has to be able to answer that question.
“I think the answer for me is the same in Scotland - for all its unique and particular circumstances.
“There is a theme that I keep hearing over and over again, which is people want much more control over their own lives and communities.”
She continued: “It’s about power and not just about federalism. I think federalism is problematic for a number of reasons - not least that it completely ignores the sentiment in many parts of this country, that regional or national government is not actually delivering on the things that matter most to them.
“By being in the UK, Scotland is better off.
She added: “When I was at the McVitie’s factory, the thing that people said to me over and over again was about independence. They don’t like Nicola Sturgeon, actually. I hadn’t realised this - a bit like Boris Johnson in the so-called ‘red wall’ seats.
“There is no enthusiasm or affection for the SNP at all - but there is a frustration with Labour. And they want to know that we are sticking up them, and that we’ve got their back. They want to see that at UK level.
“While they may feel that with their MSPs here, they certainly don’t feel that about us down in Westminster.”
Speaking to reporters earlier on Monday during her factory tour, Nandy promised to “never interfere” in devolved policymaking if she becomes Labour leader and believes the party’s stance on independence should be shaped by Scottish Labour.
The leadership hopeful said she was opposed to independence, but that Labour’s decision whether to support another referendum “should be driven by Scottish Labour”.
Arguing that the UK party needs to put more trust in Scottish Labour, she added: “If I’m honest, in recent years, we just haven’t shown the level of respect to Scottish Labour at a UK level that we ought to.
“We’ve imposed decisions, whether it’s around policies, whether it’s around resources, whether it’s around candidates, too many of those decisions are made in Westminster.
“There’s a very, very strong feeling here that UK Labour needs to be much more respectful.
“Scottish Labour makes policy on devolved issues, I will never interfere with that as the leader of the Labour Party.”