Calls for Scottish Labour to debate new powers after Alexander reveals open mind

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By a Newsnet reporter
 
Labour MP Douglas Alexander has re-stated that he has an “open mind” on what extra powers might be devolved to the Scottish parliament.
 
The senior Scottish Labour MP was being interviewed on the Politics Show Scotland when he was questioned on whether he supported more powers than was currently contained in the Scotland Bill.

Replying, the MP for Paisley South repeated remarks he made in a speech on Saturday and confirmed he was open minded on even more powers being devolved. 

Speaking on Saturday, Mr Alexander had called for the pre-referendum period to herald “a new affirmation of Scottish Labour’s agenda for our nation”, thought to be a call for the Scottish party to occupy the ground that lies beyond the Tory/Lib Dem Scotland Bill.

Scottish Labour MPs have admitted privately they no longer believe they can hold to the line of the status quo – as proposed in the Scotland Bill – given the SNP’s victory in May.  One MP is reported to have said: “Prior to May, it may have been that the Calman plans were what people wanted.  But, clearly, May has changed that and you can’t ignore it.”

Responding to the comments from the senior Labour figure, the SNP’s Adam Ingram described them as a new “constitutional policy”. 

In a reference to the current Scottish Labour leadership contest, where none of the candidates has endorsed anything beyond the Scotland Bill, Mr Ingram said Scottish Labour “had gone from having a leader without a policy to a policy without a leader.”

The SNP MSP who sits on the Scotland bill committee at Holyrood said Douglas Alexander’s rewrite of Labour’s constitutional policy should be put to the test in the leadership contest.

Mr Ingram said:

“With the absence of any real ideas or debate from the three leadership candidates Douglas Alexander’s intervention has created a constitutional policy for the party without a leadership candidate to support it.

“Once again it is the London leadership of the Labour party that has had to come down from on high to tell Scottish Labour what they are thinking.

“Perhaps they should reopen the leadership contest to allow this new policy to be tested.

“Labour now has leadership contenders without a policy on the constitution and a constitutional policy without a leader to deliver it.”

The Scotland Bill, based on Calman Commission recommendations, contains plans to alter the Scottish income tax rate by 10p, and invites the Scottish parliament to re-instate the reduction in order to fund the resultant cut to the Scottish block grant. 

However the proposals have been criticised by respected academics who claim that the plans are dangerous and may in fact damage the Scottish economy.

The alternative Devo-Max option would give the Scottish parliament control over all Scottish resources, including oil, gas and the vast renewable energy sector, but leave control over defence and foreign affairs with Westminster.