A group of leading Labour politicians has banded together to campaign for reform of the UK – with the focus on political and economic centres outside of London.
Led by former prime minister Gordon Brown, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar will speak at an event in Edinburgh on Thursday as they launch the push.
The group – dubbed the Alliance for Radical Democratic Change – will call on political leaders from other parties and parts of the country to back their goal.
The launch comes six months after a report released by Mr Brown on the future of the UK – which counts among its recommendations the abolition of the House of Lords and its replacement with a second chamber, as well as deeper devolution to the cities and regions of the UK.
In a joint mission statement, the group – which will launch in conjunction with Mr Brown’s think tank Our Scottish Future – said: “There is a UK-wide demand for change.
“We recognise the urgent need for working together – locally, regionally and nationally across the UK – to reform our constitution so we can deal with the current economic and social challenges faced in every area of our country.
“To that effect we are creating the Alliance for Radical Democratic Change to implement wide-ranging proposals for the reform of the UK – to end the centralisation of power in Whitehall and Westminster, to devolve effective economic and social powers to the regions and nations, to make our cities and regions centres of initiative for full employment and good jobs, and to ensure co-ordination between all levels of government to achieve a fairer, greener and wealthier Britain, in which each nation and region enjoys the respect it deserves.”
Mr Burnham said: “Just like Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the north of England has suffered from an over-concentration of political and economic power in the South East of the UK.
“This is changing with the devolution of power out of Westminster, but in our experience it works best when it goes deep.
“Places in all parts of the UK should have the ability to build a better future from the bottom up and collaborate with neighbours.”
Meanwhile, Scotland’s independence minister has urged Mr Brown to apologise to the people of Scotland, claiming the promises he made alongside then prime minister David Cameron and deputy PM Nick Clegg in the lead up to the 2014 referendum have not been kept.
In a statement released ahead of the Edinburgh rally, Jamie Hepburn said Mr Brown had “made promises that would have made even snake-oil salesmen blush”.
He said Mr Brown “could not have been clearer that if people in Scotland voted against independence, in his own words, that ‘we’re going to be, within a year or two, as close to a federal state as you can be’.”
The SNP MSP said since the independence vote in 2014, Scotland has been “dragged out of the EU against our will” and has seen the powers of the Scottish Parliament come “under attack like never before”.
Press Association – Craig Paton