New act of union can save UK from Brexit and SNP 'peril', Labour says
A new Act of Union is needed to "save" the United Kingdom from the "terrible peril" that Brexit and the SNP have placed it in, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has said.
Ms Dugdale called for a federal solution to be found to the current constitutional uncertainty as she insisted the focus in 2017 must be on "protecting the Union".
When pressed on the issue, she declined to say if this would be UK Labour policy - although she did stress Jeremy Corbyn has already given his backing to plans for a new constitutional convention for the United Kingdom.
She is proposing a ''people's constitutional convention'' to decide a new political settlement for the whole country while a new Act of Union could see increased powers handed to Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff, as well as regions in England.
Ms Dugdale told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "For me, the big question in 2017 is how we save the Union.
"I think the United Kingdom is in terrible peril because of a gamble the Tories have forced with Brexit and the SNP's obsession with independence.
"So, 2017 has got to be about protecting the Union.
"Our country is divided. The way to bring that country back together is by an Act of Union to save the Union. Let's have a federal solution for the United Kingdom that offers the solution that we need."
When asked if a federal UK would be UK party policy, Ms Dugdale said: "I am arguing for a federal solution for the whole of the United Kingdom."
Questioned on this again, she said: "Jeremy Corbyn has already put his support behind a constitutional convention for the United Kingdom."
While the Scottish Conservatives had enjoyed a revival in fortunes after portraying themselves as the defenders of the UK, Ms Dugdale insisted: "It is the Tories that are jeopardising the Union, it's high time that was recognised.
"Let's not forget for a second why we are where we are, because the Tories' Brexit gamble, this is Ruth Davidson's party that has done this damage to our country, put the Union in the peril it is currently in and threatened Scotland's relationship with Europe."
She backed remaining in the single market despite the UK as a whole voting to leave the European Union, saying this was "incredibly important to jobs and the economy".
Ms Dugdale claimed Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had so far failed to produce any "real evidence" of how Scotland - which voted to remain in the EU in 2016 - could have a separate deal which would allow this to be achieved.
"We absolutely support Scotland's ability to have access to the single market," the Scottish Labour leader said.
"What I would like to see is evidence that it is possible. What I said to Nicola Sturgeon at the start of the summer was that we shared those goals, I wanted to work with her on that, I've done that over these past months in good faith.
"But good faith is fast becoming blind faith as she has yet to present any real evidence that it is possible."
Ms Dugdale conceded Labour in Scotland had experienced "declining fortunes for a number of years now", with the 2016 Holyrood elections seeing it fall behind the Tories to be the third largest party in the Scottish Parliament.
With local government elections north of the border taking place in May 2017, she argued Labour councillors would be "the last barrier between the people and the cuts" to public services.
Scottish Labour wants Holyrood to use its new powers to increase income tax, something the SNP is opposed to.
Ms Dugdale added: "When you have the power to make different choices from the Tories and you refuse to use it, it makes you just as bad as them."