Anas Sarwar has vowed that Labour will not strike a deal with the SNP, as he called for a “legal duty of co-operation” between Holyrood and Westminster and the abolition of the House of Lords.
In a speech hosted by the Fabian Society at Westminster, the Scottish Labour leader said “co-operation and not conflict” must be at the heart of government as he accused the Conservatives and the SNP of stoking “bitterness, division and anger” for their own political gain.
Mr Sarwar said: “Boris Johnson is a gift for the SNP.
“Every time they fail, they either shout: ‘Independence’, or they point at Boris Johnson’s Tories and say: ‘At least we’re not as bad as that lot over there…’
“Another Tory government is precisely what the SNP wants too, because it allows them to continue their grievance campaign.
“For more than a decade, the SNP and the Tories have stoked up bitterness, division and anger and created a politics of us versus them.”
Labour brings “new hope” to politics and will deliver change by uniting people, he said.
“Labour will do no deal with the SNP – no deal, no pact, no behind-closed-doors arrangement, no coalition.”
Mr Sarwar unveiled the first in a series of papers on reform of Scotland and the UK, which he said “demonstrates how we can put co-operation, and not conflict, at the heart of the United Kingdom”.
He called for a legal duty to co-operate that would “require joint working between governments in areas of shared interest”.
The Scottish Labour leader proposed new joint governance councils that would “bring together the leaders of the UK and the nations on an equal footing” and provide a forum for dispute resolution.
The Glasgow MSP said: “Unfortunately, today, devolution is being undermined by bad actors – the SNP and the Tories.
“The political game-playing of recent years has wounded the devolution settlement.
“We need these new rules of engagement to heal it.”
Mr Sarwar also called for a new senate of the Nations and Regions to replace the House of Lords, which he called “unacceptable” in its current form.
The new senate would have directly-elected members with a mandate to represent their nation or region, better reflect the diversity of modern Britain and give Scotland and regions a greater say in UK-wide laws, he said.
Asked about details of the new senate, Mr Sarwar said: “I’m less concerned about the location, I’m less concerned about the make-up, I’m more concerned right now with the principle, the fact that we need to abolish an arcane institution, the principle that we need a more outright democratic alternative, that it needs to be reflective of the nations and the regions”.
He said Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer “recognises” the need to reform the House of Lords.
“A central mission of the Labour Party has to be to renew democracy, has to be to strengthen devolution, has to be reshape the UK so it’s changing, outward-looking, modern, diverse, and a key part of that has to be to reshift that imbalance.”
Mr Sarwar also accused First Minister Nicola Sturgeon of wanting to “pit Scot against Scot for her own obsession” in her renewed push to hold a second referendum on independence next year.
He said: “The SNP is trying to drag people back into the arguments of the past because it has no ideas for the future.”
Mr Sarwar was asked about Sir Keir’s insistence that a Labour government would not seek to take Britain back into the EU or rejoin the single market.
He said it would be “inconsistent” of him to suggest that a second Brexit referendum should be a priority when a second independence referendum is not.
“I don’t think people want referendums, I don’t think people want to go back to the division,” he told reporters.
He also said Scottish independence would not mitigate Brexit, but “multiply Brexit by 10”.
SNP MSP Kaukab Stewart said: “It’s staggering that Labour are now trying to outdo the Tories on their support for Brexit, and their Trump-like attempt to deny the results of democratic elections in Scotland is embarrassing.
“Nobody can take Labour seriously when their leader rules out working with the SNP in a progressive alliance to kick the Tories out and signs up to grubby deals with the Tories in councils across Scotland this year.”