LABOUR’s former Scottish leader has called on his party to “confront nationalism” and not just talk about more powers.
Jim Murphy – who led the party into the 2015 General Election where they dramatically lost 40 of their 41 MPs north of the Border – was asked for his thoughts as part of a debate on the conference fringe organised by Labour Friends of Scotland.
The party’s conference, taking place in Liverpool, began at the weekend and will conclude on Wednesday.
Murphy’s comments came after it was confirmed Gordon Brown’s report on devolution will be published in the coming months.
According to our sister paper the Herald, Murphy told the audience: “My take is that the circular conversation about powers is an attempt to fix a political problem.
“And further powers are an important part of the political project, but they're not an alternative to a political project.
“And often when I listen to the Scottish Labour Party talking about powers it's 'this is the one thing we believe in'.
"And allied to that, I would observe that it's hard to be nationalist without taking on nationalism.
“I don't mean absorbing nationalism, I mean confronting it. Not in a furious way, but in a respectful way.
“And so, I absolutely believe that 14 years into the SNP government they're pretty, pretty poor.
“But it doesn't seem to matter for a whole chunk of people and our argument can't just be about waiting times and hospitals important as though that is.
“Our argument has to be about the fundamental nature of nationalism. And I know that's a harder argument.
“And I know it doesn't lend itself to soundbites, but it's a substantial foundations-based argument from which you can then make others.
“But my plea would be let's not pretend that a debate about powers is a route back to power. A debate about politics and about nationalism is part of the process of getting back to power as far as I'm concerned.”
Former First Minister Jack McConnell said Labour had “been in an endless debate since 2007 about more powers”.
He added: “I think the real challenge is how do you change the way the British state works to reflect the fact that the United Kingdom is now a multinational state with different levels of legislative power in different places.
"As a party, we've not addressed that properly at the centre since 99.
“And I think we need to be very careful that we just don't continue with an attempt to find a common ground on powers. That has never existed. Scotland is completely stuck. We've been stuck since 2014.
“The balance of opinion between remaining and leaving the UK really hasn't changed despite everything.
“You think of everything that has happened since 2014. We've had Brexit, we've had the worst two governments ever in the history of this country under May and Johnson and yet opinion in Scotland hasn't really changed one way or the other.
“And I think we've got a terrible Scottish Government and opinion has not changed in the other direction either."