The Referendum has been a wakeup call and we must strengthen our Union - Margaret Curran

Margaret Curran MP, Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary, will today (THU) say that the referendum has been a wakeup call for the majority of Scots who take Scotland’s partnership with the nations of the UK for granted.

Speaking at the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff, she will say that Scotland shares much in common with Wales, England and Northern Ireland and that the vast majority of Scots want to maintain the political ties between the UK’s four nations.

She will declare that a year from now Labour’s “Devolution Generation” will be in charge and will announce that the next Labour Government will not take the Union for granted and will undertake a wide-ranging review of how the UK Government and the devolved administrations work together, and how this co-operation can be strengthened.

The review, to be conducted by the next Labour Government, will examine:

·         The effectiveness of the Joint Ministerial Committee system which is the main joint decision making forum for the UK Government and the devolved administrations.
·         The agreements between Devolved administrations and Whitehall departments to ensure they are fit for the next phase of devolution.
·         How the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly can work more closely together, building on the proposals of the Calman Commission.

Extracts and Summary
She will say that there are strong bonds across the nations of the UK, and that the vast majority of Scots support our political partnership:

“The SNP want to pretend to people across Scotland that the only thing Scots stand to lose are the Tories. And that the only people you are saying goodbye to are David Cameron and George Osborne.

But we know it means leaving behind the people of Wales, of the North East of England and the North West. People we have worked with in political partnership for years.

The Nationalist plan is that we can still be “the best of friends” with our neighbours across the UK. But my argument is that we don’t just want to be friends. We want to be more than friends. We want our political partnership to continue.

Because it has worked for us, and together, I believe we have achieved far more progressive ends than we could have as separate countries. That’s because we have more in common than those things that divide us.

This is something that finds support with the vast majority of Scots. And for those of us who believe in the Union, the threat of separation has been a wakeup call. We know now, more than ever, what is at risk in this referendum and the value of what we have.”

Ms Curran will say that a year from now Labour’s “Devolution Generation” – politicians who have only ever served since devolution was established – will be in charge:

“One thing is for sure. After this referendum is over, regardless of the outcome, people will want politicians to put our differences aside and move on. They don’t want further constitutional wrangling.

For that to happen we will make good on our promise of further powers for the Scottish Parliament, and also have the people in place who are committed to devolution.

As Secretary of State for Scotland, a year from now, I want to be in the best possible position to make that happen. Ed Miliband has already committed to further devolution and made his intention to legislate in our first Queen’s Speech absolutely clear.

But, more importantly, a year from now what I call Labour’s “Devolution Generation” will be in charge. These are the vast majority of Labour’s politicians who have only ever served since devolution has been in place.

And we also have within our ranks people with first-hand experience of serving in the devolved administrations and, in my case, as a Scottish Government Minister. This is a generation of people who are savvier about devolution and how it operates within the UK than any that has come before them.”

Finally, she will argue that with increased powers for the Scottish Parliament, it is more important than ever that the UK Government and all the devolved administrations are working together in the best interests of people across the country. She will announce that the next Labour Government will commission a wide ranging review of how the administrations work together, in order to strengthen devolution further:

“There are three issues we will turn our minds to.

First, there are few opportunities for a common platform and for our devolved institutions and the UK Government to work effectively together. The Joint Ministerial Committee system, which underpins the formal relationships between the UK Government and the devolved administrations, is hidden behind closed doors.

But these bodies deal with issues as important as EU negotiations, disputes over domestic cross-border issues and our nations’ finances. As the powers of the devolved administrations are enhanced it is not right that these institutions carry on with no change. Devolution was intended to open up politics, and it is not right that a significant part of it is shut off from public view.

Second, the relationships between Government departments, the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly are currently governed by a patchwork of agreements and memorandums that are not always fit for purpose. That needs to change, and we need to make sure devolution is hardwired into Whitehall.

Finally, while the Parliaments and Assemblies have developed, the UK Parliament has not adapted as much as it needs to the new reality of devolution. Relations between the institutions and the way they work together needs to be brought up to date. The Calman Commission had significant proposals for how we might do this, but few were implemented.

These are important ways that we can strengthen the role of our nations, and of the entire governance of the UK. And that is why the next Labour Government will institute a review of these issues if we are elected next May. A review that will examine how our Governments work together and propose new ways about how they can be made more effective.

The purpose of the review will be to ensure that, as far as possible, all our Governments can work together effectively in the best interests of their own people and people across the UK, where we have shared interests.”