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Labour UK Government could diminish appetite for independence, says Leonard

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The Scottish Labour leader spoke to the PA News agency ahead of the General Election on December 12.

Richard Leonard

Richard Leonard has said he believes there would be a “diminished appetite” for Scottish independence if a Labour Government was elected.

In an interview with the PA News agency ahead of the vote on December 12, the Scottish Labour leader said his party’s plans to invest in public services and communities across the country would offer a radical change to the Tories after a decade of austerity.

He said Labour would commit to abolishing the House of Lords – replacing it with a second chamber for the nations and regions – in a bid to decentralise power in the UK.

“For 10 years and therefore in most people’s recent memory, there has been a hostile, antipathetic Government at a UK level to the Government in Scotland and to the priorities of the Scottish Parliament,” Mr Leonard said.

“So it’s been, not all the time but for much of that time, there’s been a real tussle about how to deal with the situation where resources are being constricted rather than expanded.

“There would be such a change overnight with the election of a Labour Government that said ‘we think the decade of austerity was an experiment that’s failed and we don’t think we can afford another day of that, never mind another five years of that’.”

He added: “So we want to change that completely, we want to start to invest and we think the way to build a future for people is to invest and that will require an increase in taxes for some people and for corporations for example and the City of London will have to make contribution towards it.

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“But we think that that’s the right thing to do to invest in better collective provision for communities and for people.

“So in that climate there would be, I think, a diminished appetite amongst the people of Scotland for breaking away from the UK because they would be able to see that actually, there are mutual benefits of being in the UK, that there are possibilities with a radical, reforming, redistributive Labour Government.”

General Election 2019
Richard Leonard speaks during Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to Scotland on the campaign trail (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Mr Leonard said his party was the only one on the ballot paper giving power to the electorate over Brexit.

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“The Labour Party is the only party which, going into Government, would give the choice back to the people on Brexit within six months,” he said.

“The Tories are clearly now wedded to a hard style of Brexit, or even a no-deal Brexit is something that they haven’t ruled out, which would have big economic consequences across the economy in Scotland and for jobs.

“The Liberal Democrats have now said that they would revoke Article 50 so that they would turn their back on the 52% who voted to leave and the SNP have made it plain their preference is for a second independence referendum.”

He added: “So it’s only the Labour Party that’s standing in the election saying: ‘If you vote for us, a Labour Government will give you back, in the cold light of day, the choice about whether you want to leave on terms that would be negotiated, or do you want to remain?’

“And so we are saying to people who voted Remain in 2016 and who still believe that Remain is the best option, which I do, that you will have that choice. That’s the only way that that choice can be delivered.

“On these critical issues, I think we are putting forward a pretty clear programme of what we want to do in Government and the choice is for people to make.”

In making the case to voters, Mr Leonard outlined the importance of the election.

“The SNP talk about their goal being to deprive the Tories of their majority – we don’t want to deprive the Tories of their majority, we want to be the next Government and we want to start work from December 13,” he said.

“There’s no other party that can deliver the kind of change that Labour wants to see.

“There is no other party that forms an alternative to a Tory Government.

“The stakes are high, I really hope that people will use their hard-won vote and put it in the right box.”

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