Labor considers ministers from multiple departments to act as Scotland’s ‘window to the world’

6 Min Read
Labor considers ministers from multiple departments to act as Scotland's 'window to the world'

Ian Murray is the Labor MP for Edinburgh South (Alamy)

4 minutes reading

Shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray has said Labor is considering introducing cross-departmental Scottish ministers to reform the way Scotland is represented in the UK government, as the party works to finalize its general election manifesto.

With a general election looming and polls showing Labor with a wide lead over the Conservatives, Murray has been tasked with refining Labour’s offer to Scotland and believes ‘cooperation’ must be at the heart of it.

Murray, currently one of only two Labor MPs in Scotland, said that if Labor comes to power he would eventually like to see a greater number of ministers in the Secretary of State for Scotland’s office, and possibly also interdepartmental ministers who would ensure that Scotland’s interests were directly taken into account in a range of policy areas. He cited the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Department for Business and Trade as examples of these that could be most productive.

“That window to the world is really important because Scottish growth will depend on exports, it will depend on championing the things we do very well abroad,” he said.

“And that will be an incredibly important part of the collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce and Foreign Affairs.”

Explaining that he would like to see the Scotland Office “become a much stronger, more proactive department” and “put the sharp elbows forward to ensure Scotland’s voice is heard”, he added that he believed there a “step change” was needed. in both cross-government and cross-departmental work.

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He added that he also wanted “local representatives at the heart of the next government to stand up for Scotland”. The Scottish National Party, which has dominated politics north of the border, has had a difficult year, and many Labor figures hope this could lead to a large number of Scottish Labor MPs being elected later this year.

“In our manifesto we will set out a number of key issues that have great significance for the whole country, but especially for Scotland,” he said.

“GB Energy will be headquartered in Scotland, that’s 50,000 jobs, that’s a big transition away from fossil fuels. It is about using the Scottish infrastructure we already have to really drive forward decarbonisation of the economy by 2030.”

However, Murray warned that speedy delivery of a Labor manifesto in Scotland would depend on how effectively they could work with the incumbent SNP Scottish government.

“We will work together, but it takes two to tango and if they don’t want to dance, the Scottish public will see that as a major barrier to change,” he said.

This week, new Prime Minister and SNP leader John Swinney will take his inaugural Prime Minister’s Questions after being chosen as the unopposed successor to Humza Yousaf, who resigned following his decision to end a power-sharing deal with the Green Party led to an angry response.

Prime Minister John Swinney
Prime Minister John Swinney held his first cabinet meeting last week (Alamy)

Scottish Labor figures, including recent by-election winner Michael Shanks, have previously said this PoliticsHome they viewed the chaotic consequences of the change in leadership as a ‘reset moment’ to ‘throw away’ assumptions around key voter groups in Scotland.

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Murray agreed, accusing the Tories and SNP of spending too much time ‘fighting each other over the constitution’, while Scottish independence has fallen further down the list of Scottish voters’ concerns in recent years.

“So we have to put that aside because it’s not going to accomplish anything,” he said.

Murray acknowledged there is a “fundamental ideological difference” between Westminster and many at Holyrood on Scottish independence, but believed the “priorities of the Scottish people at the moment are not the constitution”.

“A lot of the driving forces behind people’s curiosity about independence are down to the Tory government here, the state of Westminster and all that sort of anti-Westminster sentiment,” he said.

“Our strategy for 2024 is to win here [Westminster]to show that Labor can work very closely with devolved governments of any colour, but Labor governments will certainly achieve much more because they share the same values.

“As we go to the 2026 Scottish Parliament election, that will be an important part of it, looking at what we can do if we work together.”

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