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Scottish Labour leader promises a ‘democratic renewal’ for Scotland

Richard Leonard and John McDonnell say abolishing the House of Lords and replacing it with a ‘senate of the nations and regions’ could help to reshape the political system

SCOTTISH Labour leader Richard Leonard promised “democratic renewal” and said abolishing the House of Lords and replacing it with a “senate of the nations and regions” could help to reshape the political system today.

With shadow chancellor John McDonnell Mr Leonard set out Labour’s plans for Scotland, saying the party was looking at moving to a federal system.

Though “we cannot impose a federal structure right across the UK unless it is demanded right across the UK,” he said that “calls for decentralisation” were amplifying across the whole of Britain and Labour was keen to explore how to strengthen democracy at all levels.

New land reform legislation would impose maximum ownership levels and “requirements for residency to discourage absentee landlordism — even if you happen to be the President of the United States,” he declared.

“The redistribution of power we seek is not simply about parliaments,” Mr Leonard said, “it is about redressing the imbalance of power — between tenant and landlord, between worker and owner, between citizen and state, between women and men.”

Mr McDonnell said Scotland would be allocated over £3 billion in extra funding if Labour is elected at Westminster and would be prepared to “go further” in reviewing the Barnett formula that calculates devolved budgets in relation to the overall British budget.

He said healing the damage done by Tory austerity and facilitated by the Scottish National Party was a higher priority than holding another independence referendum, though “if there is a mandate from the Scottish people we have said we won’t stand in the way of it.

But “in the first period of a Labour government we have got enough on our hands.”

Scottish Labour Left secretary Vince Mills told the Star that Mr McDonnell was welcomed at the meeting because he expressed “disgust and anger” over austerity and criticised the SNP for “acting as a transmission belt of Tory cuts.” 

Mr Mills added: “He won warm applause for exposing SNP myths that the party, which peddles neoliberalism with a kilt, is somehow ‘progressive.’

“The SNP has starved local councils of funds — which is hurting the very poorest in Scottish society.”

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