Ian Murray, the MP for Edinburgh South, speaks to The Student about his current campaign for deputy leader of the Labour Party, as well as his views on Scottish independence, the climate crisis debate, and the cost of attending university.
Murray was first elected in the 2010 general election and has held his seat through four elections since then, becoming the sole Labour MP with a seat in Scotland after the 2019 December election.
How has he managed to hold onto his seat for nearly a decade?
“The whole country is paralysed by constitutional politics” he replies.
Murray admits that the demographics of his constituency help to maintain his incumbency. Edinburgh South voted 80 per cent to remain in the EU, and 70 per cent to remain in the UK; in line with Murray’s own pro-union and pro-EU values.
He suggests that the effect of constitutional politics is that most people have little interest in who their MP is as long as their beliefs are represented – but also added that his team simply put the work in, especially in terms of technology and social media campaigns.
Murray has consistently campaigned against Scottish independence since the 2014 referendum.
He reinstated his position that “it’s in the best interests of Scotland to be part of the UK”.
Has his position changed at all in light of Brexit?
“No. Brexit is bad, and Scottish independence on top of Brexit would be even worse”. He adds “the response to Brexit can’t be to go down the route of independence … it’s not a utopian cure.”
He sees a clear similarity between arguments for Brexit and Scottish independence, arguing that “with the exception of the immigration argument, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson have the same narrative as Nicola Sturgeon”.
Murray also emphasised the need to expose the ‘lies’ of the independence campaign.
He asserts that the process of Scotland regaining EU membership would not be as seamless as the Scottish government have led us to believe.
Early this year, several Labour MPs came out in support of another independence referendum.
When asked if this was causing a party divide, Murray stresses that the principle position of such MPs is against independence, and that they are simply supporting the ‘process’.
Despite this, he argues that Labour “shouldn’t facilitate the means” if they “don’t agree with the ends”, as it risks a similar situation as Cameron wound up with regarding Brexit.
“There’s no mandate for a second independence referendum” he says, “and I don’t know why the media in this country has taken that narrative.”
On the issue of Scottish independence, he concludes: “It’s frustrating. I didn’t come into politics to talk about the constitution and it’s all I’ve done for ten years.”
In January 2020, Murray announced his campaign for deputy leadership of the Labour Party.
Who does he see as the new Labour leader?
“A deputy leader really shouldn’t pick a winner, because we’ve got to work with anyone” he qualifies, “but I’ve been pretty clear that if anyone’s offering continuity, count me out.”
Although he roots everything in Labour party values, he highlights the need for change – suggesting Labour cannot win on continuity, especially in the current 80-seat conservative majority.
The climate crisis is central to Murray’s campaign, and is an issue that he says he has always held “close to my own heart”.
He praises the work of the public in bringing the issue to the top of the political agenda but warns that “we’re running out of time” and emphasises that Labour “can’t do anything in the opposition benches with an 80-seat tory majority”.
All Scottish students are entitled to free university education. However, this policy has led to universities having to bring in more international students to balance the books.
Murray says that although an introduction of a significant increase in international students is “brilliant for higher education”, he has also found that numbers of Scottish students are capped because they are free.
He has seen many local youths with good exam results that cannot get into Scottish universities and ultimately have to pay fees to go elsewhere – “it’s like having a free bus pass but no bus” he says.
“There’s no point in having a free university if nobody can afford to be there”, Murray says. As he sees it, the two solutions are “an unfettered free market of fees, or no fees but caps.”
He worries about the Scottish government not adhering to the need to address the problem – “there’s a huge debate to have, I just wish we could have it.”
Murray is also concerned about keeping students in university once they’ve got there – particularly because of the high cost of rent and living.
He suggests the idea of an ‘Edinburgh weighting’ similar to the procedure in London, to allow more access to funding even if loans are higher. He sees this as a way of giving students the ability to live properly.
While admitting that he “doesn’t have an answer to any of these questions”, Murray stresses the importance of thinking about and discussing them.
Ian Murray’s final pitch for his deputy leadership campaign is to “start talking about the future rather than finding solutions for the past or for the now”.
The results of the Labour leadership elections, both Leader and Deputy Leader, will be announced on the 4th of April.
The Student will continue to follow the leadership race in the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for
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Image: Chris McAndrew via Wikipedia