Unionists have a “mountain to climb” if they are to persuade young voters to back the UK over Scottish independence, Ian Murray has admitted.
The Shadow Scottish Secretary said Scots had been “repelled” by Boris Johnson and claimed the prime minister was the “single biggest impediment to the union staying together”.
Mr Murray, appearing at an event hosted by the Tony Blair Institute, went on to argue however that independence was not “inevitable” and set out Labour’s plan to combat rising support for separation.
He said: “I don’t think independence is inevitable, I don’t think a second independence referendum is inevitable and I don’t think an SNP majority in May is inevitable.
“I do think we’re talking to ourselves into these things, when in actual fact what we should be doing is talking up the things that we believe in.
“The single biggest impediment to the union staying together at the moment is the current incumbent of Number 10, that’s just a fact.
“The Conservatives know that, the Scottish people for obvious reasons are repelled by the current prime minister, mainly driven by Brexit and the way in which he’s dealt with the process of trying to heal the union.”
Asked what Labour can do to turn the tide in the independence debate, he said: “The first thing the Labour movement could do, is to have a credible alternative government at Westminster.
“The framing of the debate at the moment is Scotland versus the Tories, Nicola versus Boris and Scotland versus those evil people at Westminster, its little wonder therefore that the polls are showing support at the low to mid 50s, in fact I’m surprised it’s not significantly higher.”
He added: “We’ve proved we can do this because we did it in the mid 90s, with the devolution settlement, we created the devolution network across the country.
“We want to discuss and want to look at how you get powers out of Holyrood and into local communities in Scotland, and how you get powers out of Westminster and its not just about unscrewing a brass plate and sticking the House of Lords in York, but a proper devolution of power from the centre, out to local communities.
“This is a crucial piece of work that I think needs to be done to fix our democracy.”
Regardless of Labour’s plan, Mr Murray admitted: “I do think there is a problem with younger people and I do think we’ve got a big mountain to climb.”
The Edinburgh MP also made the point that should there be a second independence referendum, there should be a third confirmatory vote to ensure the promises of the indy campaign are delivered.
He said: “I thought that a confirmatory referendum on the (Brexit) deal that had been done would have been a way to say to the public, is this what you were promised by all these disingenuous politicians and is this what we’ve delivered?
“I fundamentally believe that because we don’t have an answer to the big questions on the fundamental principles.
“I think that if people get those answers, then they should be entitled to decide whether or not that was what they were promised to start.”