Andy Burnham: Scotland and northern England co-operation would bring ‘a better world’

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has called for more co-operation between the north of England and Scotland, saying any move to take decisions without Westminster involvement would lead to “a better world”.
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In an interview with the Sunday Mail, Mr Burnham said there were “lots of opportunities” for the north of England and Scotland to work together.

He said: “There’s also lots of opportunity for collaboration where Scotland and the north could be working together to create jobs, improve our housing stock and make sure children aren’t living in cold, damp properties.”

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Mr Burnham was elected mayor in 2017 after standing down as Labour MP for Leigh, a seat he had held since 2001.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy BurnhamGreater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham

Widely tipped as a future Labour Party leader, Burnham ran twice, losing to Ed Miliband in 2010 and Jeremy Corbyn in 2015.

But he says for now he is more interested in working directly with the Scottish Government after meeting SNP First Minister Humza Yousaf earlier this week.

Mr Burnham said: “I am keen to talk to him about the reindustrialisation of Scotland and the north of England via net zero.

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“This is a genuine opportunity but at the UK-level it’s increasingly clear that there’s a desperate and nasty attempt to make the next election a highly divisive culture war.”

The Greater Manchester mayor also talked about the state of British politics and said the right will try to divide people by “going after the lowest common denominator”.

Mr Burnham added: “We’ve hit a point where the country is fundamentally broken.

“I’m sure it is the same in Scotland. There is sewage on the beaches and in the rivers, trains don’t run properly, people can’t afford to heat their homes on a normal salary – it’s chaotic and needs to change.”

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Hitting out at the “Westminster system”, Mr Burnham said the north of England will “never be equal” to the rest of the UK if the current structure remains.

Earlier this week at an Edinburgh Fringe event, Mr Burnham said the parliamentary whip system could be scrapped.

He also agreed with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar on scrapping the two-child benefit cap, calling it an “immoral policy”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has drawn criticism for suggesting that removing the two-child benefit cap would not be a priority for his party in government.

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Mr Burnham said: “The two-child policy is causing real hardship – it is driving child poverty and homelessness.

“I understand where Keir is coming from because it’s not just the two-child cap, you have the benefits cap overall, the two-child policy and the freeze on local housing allowance, and it is the effect of all these things together that is really brutal and appalling.

“The Conservatives take this tough line on benefits because they want it to be a wedge issue. George Osborne introduced the two-child cap to divide people – it was an immoral policy.”

However, Mr Burnham said governments had to be mindful of spending commitments.

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He added: “I don’t think there is as much of a divide as people say between Scottish and UK Labour on this.

“I have been in government and I know you can’t just go around making commitments without properly saying how they will be paid for.”