A GROUP of key leaders from across Britain will meet in Edinburgh this evening to form a new Alliance campaigning for wide-ranging reforms to the UK state.
At an event organised by Our Scottish Future, the five leaders will agree to form an Alliance for Radical Democratic Change calling for a more equal and a more cooperative Union.
Key demands will be an end to Whitehall centralisation, better cooperation between all levels of government and more powers for cities and regions across the UK to help them develop effective economic growth.
Tonight’s event – entitled “Stronger Scotland, Better Britain” – has been organised by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin, Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, and Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar will also be speaking.
They will urge other political leaders from across the political spectrum to join the call for change across the UK.
In a joint mission statement, they declare:
“There is a UK wide demand for change. We recognise the urgent need for working together – locally, regionally, and nationally across the UK – to reform our constitution so we can deal with the current economic and social challenges faced in every area of our country.”
“To that effect we are creating the Alliance for Radical Democratic Change to implement wide-ranging proposals for the reform of the UK – to end the centralisation of power in Whitehall and Westminster, to devolve effective economic and social powers to the regions and nations, to make our cities and regions centres of initiative for full employment and good jobs, and to ensure coordination between all levels of government to achieve a fairer greener and wealthier Britain in which each nation and region enjoys the respect it deserves.”
This evening’s event comes six months after the publication of the Labour party’s Commission on the Future of the UK, chaired by Mr Brown.
It backed a series of key reforms to the UK including the abolition of the unelected House of Lords, deeper devolution to the regions of the UK, and the creation of new institutions such as a Council of the Nations and Regions to boost joint government working.
The 150-page report followed a nationwide consultation which showed that communities from around the UK felt ignored and isolated by a London-centric system of government, which was seen as distant and unresponsive to local needs.
At tonight’s event, the five leaders are expected to set out their call for fundamental reform, arguing that all parts of the UK, including Scotland, should come together to press for change.
Ahead of the event, Mr Drakeford said: “We need a new, strengthened union, which guarantees that no one will find themselves unable to eat or relying on a food bank; facing old age or illness at the margins of society. A union which offers strong devolution for all parts of the UK; a union where all four nations are treated as equals.”
Mr Burnham added: “Just like Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the North of England has suffered from an over-concentration of political and economic power in the South East of the UK. This is changing with the devolution of power out of Westminster but in our experience it works best when it goes deep. Places in all parts of the UK should have the ability to build a better future from the bottom up and collaborate with neighbours.”
Writing earlier this week in the Scotsman, Mr Brown added: “We need to begin the major reform of Britain so that the way we run ourselves is more democratic, less corrupt, and more responsive to the wishes of people from across our diverse nation.”
“We desperately need the new modern institutions, reflective of the values we hold, which ensure power is shared across Britain, not handed down from on high. We need Westminster and Whitehall to show more respect to people who, as another survey shows, feel “neglected”, “forgotten”, “ignored” and patronised as second-class citizens.
“A new alliance of people from across Scotland, England and Wales demanding change shows we are moving closer together, not further apart.”
Our Scottish Future campaigns for a stronger Scotland in a better Britain. New polling released this week reveals that most Scots feel a strong bond with people from most other parts of the UK – with the exception of London.
Separate polling shows that most Scots – including pro and anti independence – prefer the idea of radical change within the UK to either the status quo or to full separation from the UK.
This evening’s event will be held at Central Hall, Edinburgh at 730pm