Keir Starmer has said that the United Kingdom must change if it is to survive.
Challenged to say if he agreed with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford that “the UK is over” in its current form the Labour leader declared that he passionately believed in the Union.
Speaking at the launch of Labour’s online campaign for the Scottish and Welsh elections, Starmer said the party would not defend the status quo.
Drakeford warned last week that the break-up of the UK was possible if politicians only offered a “tweaking of the status quo”.
Starmer said the polarised choice between the status quo and independence is the “wrong debate”
He told the Gist Vile: “I absolutely want to make a passionate case of the United Kingdom and a socially just Scotland in a modern United Kingdom.
“That’s the message we’ll be carrying to the voters in Scotland along with the argument that we need to get our priorities right.”
He added: “Coming out of this pandemic the idea that the next thing should be an independence referendum is, I think, is fundamentally wrong.
“We need to rebuild the economy and the NHS and our public services in Scotland.
“We need to make up for the educational attainment in Scotland and that is what we will be focusing on in our campaign going into May.”
Starmer used his speech to attack the SNP government’s “record of shame” in Scotland.
He said: “Their 13 years in power has seen child poverty rise and educational standards fall. Scotland now has the lowest life expectancy in Western Europe and the highest number of drug deaths.
“That’s a record of shame. “
“And what’s the SNP’s priority? Another divisive referendum. After everything we’ve been through, the last thing we need now is more division.”
Starmer targeted the Salmond-Sturgeon vendetta which has absorbed the nationalist movement in recent weeks. He said the SNP are too busy “fighting among themselves rather than fighting for the Scottish people”.
Starmer has commissioned former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to come up with a Labour plan for more devolved United Kingdom with powers moved out of Westminster and Holyrood.
The first part of the strategy, for more Scottish devolution, is expected to be launched ahead of the Holyrood elections in May.
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