LABOUR leadership candidate Andy Burnham has vowed to hand Scottish Labour additional powers within weeks if he secures the party’s top job.
Mr Burnham said he would implement the changes - following discussions with the new leader of Scottish Labour - at the party’s conference in September, to be held in Brighton.
The Herald are reporting that Mr Burnham is keen to hand more powers to Scottish Labour including autonomy on party management, candidate selection and policy as he seeks to smooth out relations between the UK and Scottish Labour parties if he sees off competition from Jeremy Corbyn, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall in the race to become Ed Miliband’s successor.
The Shadow Health Secretary is seeking to do away with the view - aired by former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont - that the party in Scotland is a ‘branch office’ of the Westminster party.
Mr Burnham told The Herald: “I want to act straight away. I want the new arrangements to be in place this year before the Holyrood elections because it is crucial we make a fresh start and give the new [Scottish] leader the space, the flexibility and freedom that he or she needs to get off on the right foot and not to have that cloud hanging over them, that London is looming over their shoulder.”
The Leigh MP confirmed that he was against the idea of a separate Scottish Labour Party, dismissing nationalism as an ‘ugly brand of politics based on separation and division.’
Mr Burnham is expected to unveil his manifesto next week, but said that although Labour faced a ‘long road back’ in Scotland, he was confident that most Labour voters who had backed the SNP in the last election would be ‘prepared to give [Labour] another go.’
Mr Burnham’s announcement comes just days after Jeremy Corbyn streaked ahead in the race to be the new Labour leader, earning the backing of two unions including Unison.
Mr Burnham added that the leadership race was about the lives of ordinary Britons, and not an ‘internal pursuit’.