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Moving power from Whitehall is 'an economic necessity', says Dugdale

Moving political power from Whitehall "isn't just a constitutional convenience, but an economic necessity", Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has said.

She said the future of the UK was under threat and the constitutional debate would determine "whether or not our economy is going to succeed".

Ms Dugdale is part of Labour's new devolution taskforce which includes former prime minister Gordon Brown, Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and former deputy prime minister John Prescott, which will set up a constitutional convention to look at how to take forward its proposals for a federal UK.

Speaking at the taskforce's first meeting at Cardiff University, Mr Brown called the triggering of Article 50 a "very sad day for Britain" and said he would prefer the UK to remain in the European Union.

He said he believed Brexit would force the country to face up to "vast structural inequalities" in income, wealth and power.

"We have got to start rethinking the British constitution in a way that gives more power to the nations and regions of the United Kingdom," he said.

"I think we've now got to think imaginatively about how we can make sure that some of these long-term structural inequalities in the United Kingdom are dealt with," he added.

"That means that there has got to be a big discussion on a more federal and a more decentralised constitution for the country."

The taskforce has warned that as Brexit was triggered the UK constitution is "no longer fit for purpose" and called on the UK Government to repatriate powers over agriculture, fisheries, regional policy and environmental protection to regional administrations on their return from Brussels.

Further proposals include replacing the House of Lords with an elected senate of the nations and regions and devolving power to regional economic councils in England.

Ms Dugdale said: "The threat to the future of the UK is very real. Our country is more fragile today than it has ever been, even in the days before the last independence referendum.

"And that's not just because of the threat of another referendum in Scotland, but because of the pressures which Brexit has already unleashed across the UK, and which are only going to get worse.

"The solution is definitely not independence, as Nicola Sturgeon suggests. It's not this union of nations which is unfair or unjust, but the decisions of powerful within it."

She said Labour was prepared to take "radical steps" needed to change how the country works.

"The blunt truth is that the constitutional debate will determine how working people will do over the coming years, and whether or not our economy is going to succeed.

"That is why it now has to be central to our thinking on the economy. And why moving political power out of Whitehall isn't just a constitutional convenience, but an economic necessity."

Mr Jones said the UK's "own internal mechanisms" would have to change following the triggering of Article 50.

"My greatest fear is that Brexit will lead to a rise in English nationalism," he said.

"That I think is bad for us all. I have no problem expressing my identity, I'm proud of being Welsh - I am Welsh above all else in reality.

"But I have no conflict in my British identity in that regard and I don't think people should have to choose like that."

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