Scotland politics

Labour's Kezia Dugdale says UK is Scotland's more important union

Media captionKezia Dugdale was interviewed by presenter Gary Robertson on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said the UK was more important to Scotland than the EU as she set out her plan to "save our Union" in 2017.

The MSP, who was speaking to BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, also reiterated her call for a federal UK and a new Act of Union.

She explained that the EU was important but "not more important" than the UK.

The Scottish Conservatives said voters did not trust Labour and the SNP said Ms Dugdale had nothing new to offer.

Responding to questions from presenter Gary Robertson, the politician said: "The UK represents the best possible way to redistribute wealth across the country. I want to tackle poverty and inequality, that is why I am in the Labour Party and I think the UK is the best means by which we can do that.

"The EU is very important, of course it is, and I campaigned very hard for a Remain vote.

"But you cannot argue, as Nicola Sturgeon often does, that Scotland's relationship with Europe is more important than its relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom - not on any measure is that the case, not least when it comes to the economy."

'Blind faith'

She added that she had done everything she could to support First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's efforts to "maintain a different relationship with the EU because that is what Scots voted for".

Ms Dugdale said she "absolutely" supported Scotland's "ability to have access to the single market" but she argued that Ms Sturgeon had failed to produce "real evidence" of how a separate Scottish deal could be done.

What I would like to see is evidence that it [Scottish deal on single market] is possible."

Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour leader

She told the BBC: "What I would like to see is evidence that it is possible. What I said to Nicola Sturgeon at the start of the summer was that we shared those goals, I wanted to work with her on that, I've done that over these past months in good faith.

"But good faith is fast becoming blind faith as she has yet to present any real evidence that it is possible."

Ms Dugdale has now set out what she believed should be a "new political settlement for the whole of the country" which would involve more powers for Holyrood, Cardiff Bay, Stormont and the English regions.

Her "save our Union" proposals include:

  • a people's constitutional convention "for the entire UK"
  • a federal solution where "every nation and the regions of England could take more responsibility for what happens in their communities"
  • "firmly safeguarding" the redistribution of wealth across the UK
  • a new Act of Union to "safeguard our family of nations for generations to come"

However, SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said that although it was a new year, Scottish Labour had "nothing new to offer to the people of Scotland" and that the messages were "old, tired and out of touch".

He added: "Kezia Dugdale and her party should be helping the SNP to fight today's battles.

"She could join us in supporting the Scottish government's plan for Scotland in standing against the biggest threat to Scotland's prosperity and the biggest concern for families - business and educational institutions right now - a hard Brexit which risks our membership of the single market.

"Instead, she prefers to peddle a single constitutional solution which suits her party rather than her country while excluding the one option which might simply be the best one for Scotland - independence."

Voter 'mistrust'

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said Labour was "extremely late to the party" when it came to "prioritising the Union".

He added: "They ran away from their involvement in Better Together and even their leader has said she'd consider voting to break up Britain in future.

"The voters made it clear in the Holyrood elections that they don't trust Labour on the constitution.

"As such, they won't be fooled by this latest stunt. The only party serious about keeping Scotland in the UK are the Scottish Conservatives."

During the radio interview, Ms Dugdale was also quizzed about her party's prospects in this year's Scottish council elections.

Earlier on Good Morning Scotland, politics professor John Curtice said that from current polling it looked like "Labour is going to lose very heavily indeed".

Ms Dugdale insisted she wanted to make the case for "why people should vote for Labour in May".

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