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RICHARD LEONARD called for a “federal Britain” today, calling for more powers for both the Scottish Parliament and local government in England.
The Scottish Labour leader reiterated his party’s pledge to support the return of EU powers directly to the Scottish Parliament in a constitutional row that has seen a deadlock between the SNP government in Holyrood and the Tories in Westminster.
“Let me make it clear from this conference today that a federal Britain, with greater powers for the Scottish Parliament, is the radical solution that I want to see,” he told delegates in his address to the Labour conference in Liverpool.
“The real division in our society is not between Scotland and England. It is between those people who own the wealth and those people who through their hard work and endeavour create the wealth.
“We don’t need a referendum [on independence] to change Scotland. We need the election of a Scottish Labour government to change Scotland.”
The plan won plaudits from activists at a fringe meeting on federalism this morning, which was organised by Scotland’s Campaign for Socialism group.
But some in Scottish Labour believe Mr Leonard’s vision is not bold enough.
University of the West of Scotland lecturer Ewan Gibbs, a left Labour activist, said Mr Leonard’s statements to the media suggested that a Labour government elected at Westminster could overrule the Scottish Parliament over a second independence referendum.
He said this was “an abandonment of Scottish Labour’s long-standing support for Scottish self-determination” and called on Labour to “revolutionise the structures of the British state” instead.
“Over the last decade Scottish Labour has found itself running from its own shadow,” Mr Gibbs said.
“Further devolution disguised as ‘federalism’ is nowhere near enough. We need a root-and-branch transformation of how democracy works across Britain.”
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