A LABOUR MP has refused to “categorically” rule out blocking Scottish legislation using Section 35 should his party come to power.

Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said that using Section 35 of the Scotland Act should never be a “first resort”, in reference to the UK Government’s block on gender reform laws.

The UK Government prevented the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill from becoming law, arguing it interfered with reserved equality laws.

The move was challenged by Scottish ministers in the Court of Session with the outcome of the challenge still being determined by judge Lady Haldane.

The National: Ian Murray

Speaking to BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland (GMS) programme from the Labour conference in Liverpool, Murray (above) was asked if he could rule out using a similar block.

He said: “Well we can’t categorically say that because the reason Section 35 exists in the Scotland Act – it was developed by Donald Dewar when he was first minister – was to make sure devolution could work.

“And what we need to do is make sure that Section 35 is a very, very last resort and not the first resort and that means you’ve got to repair relationships and work together.”

He told the programme his speech to conference later on Monday would address how to create a better relationship with the Scottish Government.

“I think the Scottish people want both governments, whatever colour they are, to work together,” he said.

“I’m determined if I become Scottish secretary to try and resolve some of those relationship problems.

“At least until 2026 (Holyrood) elections, we know we’ll have an SNP Government in Scotland and we’ve got to try and find ways to get working together and make those intergovernmental relationships work properly.”

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However, he also expressed confidence in his party’s message ahead of next year’s general election and beyond to the Holyrood elections following the by-election victory for Scottish Labour’s Michael Shanks last week.

“The result on Thursday was just the culmination of that first stage of recovery,” he told GMS.

“We’re looking forward to winning every vote on every doorstep across Scotland because we feel as if we’ve got a real message of change to put forward to people and they’re really responding to it.”

Responding to the comments, the SNP’s Scotland spokesperson Tommy Sheppard (below) said: “We have had thirteen years of the Tories attempting to undermine the powers of the Scottish Parliament and attack the devolution agreement.

“It is not a surprise that Labour are following in their footsteps in promising to centralise power to Westminster and dictate spending in devolved areas, seriously undermining democratically elected Scottish Parliament.”

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He added: “It is clear that the Scottish Labour Party is nothing but a branch office, which takes its orders from Sir Keir Starmer in Westminster.

“Whilst Ian Murray may be happy to be told what to do from London, the SNP are clear that the Scottish Parliament is the best place to make decisions based on what’s best for the people, businesses and communities who live here.

“Increasingly it doesn’t matter whether the Tories or the Labour Party are in charge in Westminster, neither can be trusted to protect devolution, and the only way to protect the Scottish Parliament from power grabs is with independence.”

Elsewhere, the SNP's Pete Wishart (below) told The National: "It would seem that voting Labour would mean replacing one set of democracy denying, parliamen constraining, Scotland bypassing bunch of Unionists with another.

"Labour now seem determined to continue the Tory agenda of muscular unionism reminding Scots of their place in their broken Union."

The National: All Under Banner march for independence, Perth. Pictured are Pete Wishart MP, left and John Swinney MSP.

  Photograph by Colin Mearns
7 September 2019

Scottish Greens MSP Maggie Chapman meanwhile said it was clear Labour "don't care about democracy". 

"Section 35 has been weaponised by the Tories to undermine the work of the Scottish Parliament", she said. 

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"For Labour, the self-proclaimed party of devolution, to say it too would work to unpick the will of the Scottish people shows they don't care about democracy or Scotland's right to govern its own affairs. 

"The fact that Ian Murray would wield this threat shows the mask has already slipped on what a Sir Keir Starmer government would look like and its attitudes towards Scotland."