Our country is at a turning point.

The effects of Brexit and the drumbeat of a second independence referendum coming from Nicola Sturgeon means that questions about how we run our country are again at the centre of our politics.

But what is clear is that neither a Tory hard Brexit nor a divisive second independence referendum is what the majority of Scots want.

People want change, but they don’t want the country to be divided again. Instead, we need to start thinking about how we work together. We need a new deal for how power is redistributed in this country. One that brings power closer to communities. Not just in Scotland but across the whole UK.

Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson sit in the Scottish Parliament chiefly because of the efforts of the Scottish constitutional convention in the 1980s, which led to the creation of the Scottish Parliament.

It was Labour that championed devolution for decades. And it is bitterly disappointing to Labour politicians like me that in a decade of SNP government, they have not unlocked the potential of devolution.

That potential includes bringing power closer to the people, bridging the gap between the governed and those who govern and to give people more influence over the decisions that affect their lives.

The vote for Brexit isn’t just the failure of the Remain campaign; it’s a failure of our system of government.

If you think Westminster feels remote in Glasgow then imagine how it feels in Wigan or Sunderland.

I lost count of the number of colleagues from across the rest of the UK who reported back from the doorsteps during the EU referendum that people were willing to gamble on Brexit because, really, how much worse could it get?

In Scotland those feelings revealed themselves two years earlier during the independence referendum.

Then it was my turn on the doorstep to hear that, while the SNP had not made the case, people were willing to take a leap into the dark because, really, how much worse could it get?

In a generation the UK has gone from feeling that things can only get better to things can’t possibly get worse.

That’s why we need to change how we govern ourselves.

Our system of government was not doing the job it should have done before Brexit or the independence referendum.

That’s why I want to see a People’s Constitutional Convention and a new Act of Union to renew the UK for a new age.

This proposal means more powers for Scotland but strengthens the whole UK as well.

It seeks to build out from the benefits we already derive from being part of the UK, and it would bring power closer to people.

Our country feels so divided just now. Between remain and leave, yes and no, rich and poor. But together we’re stronger. That’s why Labour is making the case for bringing power closer to communities, redistributing power through the UK the way we redistribute wealth through the UK.

That’s a better future for Scotland than a hard Tory Brexit, or a divisive second independence referendum.


John Swinney is Nicola Sturgeon’s heavyweight in the Scottish Cabinet. That’s probably why the First Minister moved Mr Swinney from the Finance brief to Education. She said it was her top priority after all, so why not put her best minister on it?

But John Swinney’s intray is piling up. There are real problems with education in Scotland. Last week a report from the respected Sutton Trust showed attainment falling in maths and science, and the gap between the richest and the rest as bad as ever.

Figures released by Labour earlier this week show a near 15% fall in newly qualified primary teachers.

That goes alongside 4,000 fewer teachers since the SNP came to office and 1,000 fewer support staff.

The truth is education, especially our schools, has been underfunded and ignored in a decade of SNP government.  It was only after Labour revealed the extent of the problems that the SNP government proclaimed it their top priory.

That sums up the short term approach of the SNP government. We have a stake in our schools being better because the future of our country is sitting in them.

When attainment for maths and science is sliding backwards that’s not just bad news for bright kids who want to go on to college or university, it is bad news for economy in the next decade.

John Swinney may be the SNP’s best minister, but he is struggling to fix problems he created with his own cuts when he was in charge of Scotland’s public spending.


Carers are the unsung heroes of Scotland. Thousands of people dedicate their lives to caring for others and save the government, particularly our NHS and social care system, billions of pounds because of their selfless care and attention.

That is just one of the reasons there is cross party support to use the new powers of the Scottish Parliament to increase carer’s allowance to the same level of Job Seeker’s allowance.

It isn’t a huge increase, but it adds up. It’s worth about £250 extra since last September and today.

Why last September? That’s when the SNP government got the powers to deliver this change.

They still haven’t. Ministers are dragging their feet and carers are missing out.

The new powers over social security give us a chance to build a truly fairer Scotland – but we need to move past warm words and onto real action. Politicians can absolutely transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of Scots if they are bold enough.

Labour wants a legal duty on the new Scottish social security agency to ensure that everyone gets what they are entitled to, for example.

But for a start the government should be keeping their promises, not dragging their heels.


Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting Redford Barracks in Edinburgh.

I met the women and men who make up our brave reserves, who are an integral part of our Armed Forces.

At Redford the 5MI battalion has its first female combat-ready reserve, following the decision last year to allow women to fight on the frontline.

Our Armed Forces should reflect the society we live in, and this move was a long time coming.

Gender equality should extend to all walks of life.


The Scotland Rugby team is providing us with more drama than a Hollywood blockbuster these days, and this weekend’s nail biter in Paris ended in agonising defeat.  We may not have got the points but after the World Cup in 2015 who would bet against more thrillers – and surprises – from Vern Cotter’s men?

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