SIR Keir Starmer has said all powers short of independence could be transferred to Holyrood under a party review led by Gordon Brown which could see it back greater Scottish autonomy.

The Labour leader was asked by The National whether he was open to ideas put forward by former Labour MEP David Martin who urged his party to devolve every government ­responsibility to Holyrood, apart from defence.

Martin said after the election in May that if his party “truly wants to be ‘back on the pitch’, it must have something concrete to offer on the constitution”.

At a briefing to Scottish political journalists in London, Starmer was asked by The National if he was open to Martin’s ­proposal as well as those made by Katy Clark MSP and the Labour peer Pauline Bryan, who also back greater devolution.

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He was asked whether he would consider devolving immigration, drugs laws and more taxation powers to Holyrood.

In response he pointed to Brown’s Commission on the Future of the UK, which is due to report and make ­recommendations to the party later this year.

“I am in favour of further ­devolution and that is one of the principles that sits behind the work the Gordon Brown is doing us on the ­Commission on the Future of the UK.

“And within the framework for that the only thing we are not going to countenance is the break up of the Union but otherwise we are open to further devolution without being ­specific.”

He added: “What we know is there needs to be change. Change should not be breaking up the Union but there needs to be change and Gordon is looking into what the options for that are.”

Starmer went on to say the ­Commission would include how to put decision making closer to ­communities and local ­authorities across the UK as well as to the ­Scottish Parliament.

Pressed about whether the ­Commission would recommend ­devolving more powers over drugs and tax, he replied: “What Gordon is looking at is exploring and ­taking ­evidence on what other changes might be possible … So we’re not ­saying ­simply fiscal or defence, those are not discussions we’re having.

The National: Gordon Brown

“The hard edge in [the] review is, we’re not going to go down the road of breaking up the Union.”

Starmer was also asked that if he became Prime Minister, what would be the democratic route to ­independence for Scotland.

“Well, look, we’re in a position now where despite all the noises off … there seems to be a pretty strong political consensus that we have got to get on with the recovery and kick starting the economy and public ­services in Scotland and that should be the focus,” he replied.

“Despite all the noise, actually I think pretty well all the parties and certainly the Labour Party is clear that has to be the focus at the ­moment.

“We were very clear about that coming into the election in May, we’re very clear about that now and I think that’s where the discussion should be.”

Pressed that if the Westminster veto on a second independence ­referendum continues, the UK stops becoming a union of consent.

He said: “We’re not at that stage. That is a hypothetical that we’re not in by a long stretch and I don’t think we should be in.

“Obviously it is for the people of Scotland to decide their future but the question at the moment is what is the priority and the priority is the ­recovery. Despite all the noises off I think there is quite a strong ­consensus on that.

“The other thing that frustrates me is that this is consistently being used particularly by the SNP to mask their record. I think Nicola Sturgeon said that she wants to be judged on her ­record, but if you look at her record on education, it’s appalling, if you look at her record on health and the health service it is appalling.”

He added: “If you look at at the drugs related deaths the record is appalling, if you look at child poverty, which I think went into legislation in 2017, consistently missing the target.”

Starmer insisted his party had to win back Scotland if it wanted to get back into power in Westminster. “There’s no route back that doesn’t run through Scotland and nor should there be for the Labour Party.

"We know we have to win more seats and votes in Scotland and we want to, ­because I want to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and I want us to have stronger representation in Scotland. That means we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said.

An SNP spokesman said: “The people of Scotland had their say on our record in government – and our ambitious plans to lead Scotland through the pandemic and into a sustainable recovery - in May’s election. The SNP recorded its highest ever share of the constituency vote, while Labour slumped to its worst ever result.”