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Scottish independence would bring 'turbo-charged' austerity - Jeremy Corbyn

Independence would result in "turbo-charged austerity" for Scotland and a "glaring hole" in the cash for essential public services, Jeremy Corbyn has warned.

While First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said Prime Minister Theresa May's plan to take the UK out of Europe's single market "undoubtedly" makes a second referendum more likely, the Labour leader cautioned Scots against leaving the UK.

He also insisted the vote for Brexit could bring "opportunities" for Scotland, with the possibility of further powers being devolved to Holyrood.

Mr Corbyn said while "of course Scotland has the talent and ability to run its own affairs", he did not believe this "would be the best option for the Scottish people".

Since the 2014 independence referendum, the case for Scotland leaving the UK had "weakened", he claimed, citing the plunge in North Sea oil revenues as one reason for this.

Speaking out against independence in Glasgow, he insisted: "I t would lead to turbo-charged austerity and a glaring hole in the money required to fund essential services, and would not be in the interests of the people of Scotland."

His claim was, however, rejected by Ms Sturgeon, who branded it "rubbish".

The SNP leader tweeted: "If Corbyn wasn't leading such a pitifully ineffective opposition the Tories wouldn't be getting away with half of what they are."

Mr Corbyn said separating from the rest of the UK would "not tackle the underlying problems facing Scotland" such as poverty.

Independence would mean "p olitical power would lie with the Edinburgh establishment" instead of in London, but he stressed "economic power would remain south of the border".

He said: "O f the 250 largest companies in the UK, only 17 have their headquarters in Scotland.

"So, decisions about Scottish wages and salaries would be made in board rooms largely down south where the Scottish Government would have little sway."

The Labour leader said he could "empathise" with the 67% who "believe there is an 'establishment' in London that doesn't understand the problems faced by people living in Scotland".

He also said that 43% of Scots "agree that an Edinburgh establishment doesn't understand them either".

While he said "s ome people may say the UK only works for England, not Scotland", he went on to argue that " it isn't working that well for much of England either".

Mr Corbyn told the audience, including Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale: "2 20,000 Scottish children live in poverty. It's the same across our cities, small towns and rural communities in England."

He went on to say: "It is too simplistic to define Scottish challenges as being a national question while insisting issues in the English north are an economic question."

He accused the Tories of having "created an unbalanced Britain, between the rich and poor" and with power centred in Westminster and not in the "nations and regions" of the UK.

While 62% of Scots voted to remain in the European Union, he said Brexit could "provide us with the chance to redress that by fixing a rigged system that doesn't work for the majority of people".

Mr Corbyn insisted that after the UK leaves the EU it is "vital" the UK Government gives more powers to Holyrood, the assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland and England's metropolitan mayors and local authorities.

"Brexit means we have to develop a long-term plan to build a fairer, more just country," he said.

"So, in two weeks' time, I will be holding a summit with European socialist leaders to see how best we can influence them to make a case in their own countries for a Brexit that works for Britain."

Labour is also to set up a people's constitutional convention - similar to the Scottish constitutional convention which campaigned for a devolved parliament in the 1990s - to look at how power can be spread across the UK.

While the Scottish Government has made clear staying in the single market is essential if a second independence referendum is to be avoided, with SNP ministers seeking a different arrangement from the rest of the country, Mr Corbyn said: "T he question of single market access is and has to be a UK decision."

He stressed, however, that Labour is "determined to make sure there is market access to Europe", adding that "around 50% of UK-wide trade is with Europe".

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