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Andy Burnham: Scotland should be as close to home rule as possible

Scotland should be “as close as possible” to self-rule, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said while discussing a possible second independence referendum.

Mr Burnham said he was still opposed to Scottish independence but said the UK’s constitution needed to be ‘completely rewired’.

He was interviewed by former Labor MSP Neil Findlay at an Edinburgh Fringe event on Tuesday.

Mr Burnham also told the audience that he had asked to meet First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during his visit to Scotland but had not heard back from his office.

The mayor said he asked to meet Nicola Sturgeon (Nigel French/PA)

The Scottish government later said that was not the case.

He also spoke about his dispute with the Scottish Government over Covid travel rules, saying the way the travel ban was imposed during the pandemic was an example of the “Scottish National Party dealing with the North of England with contempt”.

Mr Burnham said being mayor for the past five years has given him ‘more perspective on the Scottish independence debate’.

He said: “This country, the UK needs to be completely rewired, there needs to be a redistribution of power.”

He continued: “I understand how for Scotland to simply say ‘OK, status quo but with a bit more devolution’ is not an answer if there is to be another referendum.

“You must have a much better alternative next time and for me it is a completely rewired Westminster where I would say proportional representation for the Commons, an elected Nations and Regions Senate to replace the House of Lords.

“Much more devolution in all of this, as close to self-governing Scotland as possible, I would say.”

In Scotland, he said more powers should be transferred from Edinburgh to local communities.

Setting out in more detail his constitutional views, he said: “I never want to see a border run through the north of England and Scotland in my lifetime.”

The Mayor of Greater Manchester went on to discuss his dispute with the Scottish Government over the Covid travel ban imposed in the summer of 2021.

He said it was done without any notification or discussion with his office, adding: ‘What message do people in the Scottish Government think it sent to people in our place? Basically, “you’re not welcome”.

He continued: “We expect the Tories to treat the North of England with contempt, but it was the Scottish National Party who treated the North of England with contempt.”

Saying he was meeting Glasgow council leader Susan Aitken on Wednesday, he added: ‘I asked to meet the Prime Minister while I was here and got no response.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘It is factually incorrect to say that no response has been sent to Mr Burnham’s request for a meeting.

“The Prime Minister’s Office contacted Mr Burnham’s office the same day the meeting request was received.

“Since then, in discussion with his office, an agenda has been agreed and dates identified.

“The Prime Minister remains open to holding this meeting.”

A Scottish Government spokesman later added: ‘Both offices have identified a suitable time for the meeting today and the First Minister looks forward to meeting Mr Burnham tomorrow (Wednesday).’

Teresa R. Cabrera

The author Teresa R. Cabrera