Magazine article Public Finance

Devolved Administrations and Beyond

Magazine article Public Finance

Devolved Administrations and Beyond

Article excerpt

* A former Labour first minister has told PF that the divergence of political values between Scotland and England has left him ready to back independence.

Asked about the Brexit negotiations, Henry McLeish said: "I think we're slowly running out of red lines, and I'm slowly running out of patience. My Britishness is actually being squeezed out. I'm in a position now where I could vote for independence."

McLeish, who was Scotland's second first minister from October 2000 to November 2001, urged his own party to sharpen its constitutional policy, to at least the extent of backing a federal structure. This would see Holyrood control every aspect of public policy except defence, foreign affairs and macroeconomics.

However, Labour was "all over the place" on the issue, he said.

"The Labour Party has got to recognise that independence should not just be the flag of the Scottish National Party. They have no right to a monopoly, because independence could come from any party," McLeish said.

"Independence isn't necessarily about their kind of nationalism. It's about wanting to be maybe like Finland, or Sweden or Denmark - the Nordic countries generally. We would have a different way of life, different social investment policies, be a genuinely social democratic country."

McLeish said his changed view arose partly from Brexit: "That was like a bereavement for me. I think it was the most monumentally stupid decision this country has taken since 1945.

"That said, Scotland and England's politics are diverging. There's a growth of hard-headed nationalism in England, there's xenophobia, there's racism, there's an ugly politics developing that we're not part of.

"I think that for Scots it's not just the European Union issue. It's other issues that tend to cement the idea that maybe part of the union is not where we want to be. And being part of the EU is much more internationalist, much more ambitious, much more where a modern Scotland could be. …

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