Union Being 'Stretched To Breaking Point', Labour Warns

5 January 2017, 06:38 | Updated: 5 January 2017, 06:40

Kezia Dugdale MSP

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has said the Union is being "stretched to breaking point'' and must be saved in 2017.

Ms Dugdale attacked the SNP and Tories as "reckless'' as she renewed calls for a federal UK following the Scottish independence and EU referendums.

Her party wants a ''people's constitutional convention'' to decide on a new political settlement for the whole country, and a new Act of Union, with increased powers for Holyrood, Cardiff Bay, Stormont and the English regions.

Ms Dugdale, who will give a speech on Scotland's post-Brexit future to the David Hume Institute later this month, said now was the time to act to "safeguard'' the Union.

She said: "In 2014, we saved our Union and I was proud to be part of a campaign that stood up for Labour values of solidarity and co-operation.

"But 2016 saw the UK put at risk once again. The reckless actions of Ruth Davidson's Westminster colleagues led to a Brexit vote that created the divisions in our society that Nicola Sturgeon thrives upon.

"With the Tories pursuing a hard Brexit, and the SNP pursuing independence, these two parties of government are stretching the Union to breaking point.

"But 2017 is the year we can put the building blocks in place to save our Union.

"We can start preparing for a people's constitutional convention for the entire UK and I have proposed a federal solution, where every nation and the regions of England could take more responsibility for what happens in their communities - while firmly safeguarding the redistribution of wealth across the UK.

"After more than 300 years, it is time for a new Act of Union to safeguard our family of nations for generations to come.''

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said: ''It might be a new year but Scottish Labour has nothing new to offer to the people of Scotland. The messages in this speech are old - tired and out of touch.

"The truth is people in Scotland know that Labour would rather shore up the Tories in power in Scotland in the UK and in local councils than join progressive alliances to deliver better for local communities - counter the endless Westminster cuts and the utter chaos of Brexit.

''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 Scortland - independence.''

Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said: "Labour are extremely late to the party when it comes to prioritising the Union.

"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.''