Scottish Labour is the party of devolution. We believe that a strong Scottish Parliament, within a strong United Kingdom, delivers the best possible outcomes for the people of Scotland. That is why a Labour Government set up the Scottish Parliament, and why we will fight to preserve it. It is our conviction that constitutions must serve the needs of the people.
I have established the Scottish Labour Devolution Commission to examine the existing devolution settlement. The question we have sought to address is: how can we strengthen the present constitutional arrangements to serve Scotland better, and meet the aspirations of the Scottish people for fuller devolution, while maintaining the integrity of the UK that they so much value?
There is a wide range of views in Scotland on devolution and where additional powers and responsibilities should lie. This is why I have committed Scottish Labour to the widest possible engagement with expert opinion and external stakeholders on this issue.
Scottish Labour is determined to lead the debate on how we enhance and develop devolution and we will do so in the most positive terms. We enter the debate focussed not on just where powers sit but crucially how powers can be best used to support individuals, families, communities and businesses in Scotland. Too often, the debate on constitutional change has been about the false choice offered by the SNP: a choice between separation and rule from Westminster. Our concern is powers for a purpose – not devolution of powers for their own sake. We will not participate in a constitutional auction – we have considered the issues on the basis of where powers best reside.
The discussion is not just about decision-making at the Scottish Parliament or Westminster: it is about where power should best lie amongst multiple levels of government to ensure that decisions which affect people are made at the most appropriate level. That means it is essential to think about local government and communities. In the end, for us, real devolution is about people and how they can be empowered.
I am very grateful to those who have given evidence so far, and engaged with us as we considered the issues. We very much welcome further responses from the length and breadth of Scotland, as well as from further afield, to the issues we raise and the questions we are exploring, in order to help us produce our final recommendations.
Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
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