NATIONALISM is an “ugly brand of politics” that seeks to divide people, Andy Burnham declared, insisting what people north and south of the Border wanted was “solidarity not separation”.

The Shadow Health Secretary made clear he was not fazed by the onward march of “Stormin’ Corbyn”, stressing how he was in a strong position with two weeks to go before the ballot papers went out. Indeed, throughout our conversation he appeared confident of victory; referring to when he would be leader, not if.

On the top floor of unassuming Westminster offices, sandwiched between Pizza Express and Pret a Manger, the would-be leader is surrounded by white tables and a phalanx of eager young things hitting the telephones.

There is a large poster of the candidate, explaining his vision for Labour; another urges people to support Andy4leader and “be part of the change”.

He is clear part of that change will be to give Scottish Labour more freedom over policy and people; to banish the idea it is a “branch office” of the London HQ.

“That’s got to change. Whether it’s perception or reality, there has to be substantive change to get the relationship right and put any perceptions that that is the case beyond question.

“So I would be looking,” and he stressed it would only be done in agreement with the new leader of the Scottish party, “to have measures put through Labour conference this year, immediately, to give more autonomy to the Scottish party; to reflect the logic of the Scotland Bill, that’s going through Parliament.”

He recalled how on a recent visit to Holyrood during a deal of soul-searching with MSPs, one described the relationship between the party in Glasgow and London as “dysfunctional”.

“We’ve got to take this moment to make this ground zero, to get that relationship right before we go any further forward,” declared Mr Burnham.

This was why he wanted to make the changes swiftly; at the party’s annual conference in September.

“I have already spoken to the General Secretary of the Labour Party to give him notice that is what I intend to do; so it’s a serious proposal,” he explained before again adding quickly that it would be done “in conjunction with and only in agreement with” the new Scottish party leader.

While they could attend a Burnham Shadow Cabinet, if they wanted to, they would, by right, be on the party’s ruling National Executive; a suggestion previously rejected.

But while voters in Scotland voted for an anti-austerity party and voters in England for a pro-austerity party, the frontbencher made clear he did not believe in separate messages or indeed separate Labour Parties.

“In terms of what the party is about it, we should be about the same things...There should be a Labour vision based on hope that can carry across.”

Organisationally, Scottish Labour would not be independent but, rather, would have autonomy within UK Labour.

“We must keep that principle; that regardless of where anybody joins we are one party whether someone joins in St Albans or St Andrews we are one party and they are members of the same UK party but within that we want more autonomy for the Scottish party; that should be autonomy over organisational matters, selections, over policy.”

With his leftwing colleague Jeremy Corbyn picking up the support of two more trade unions, Mr Burnham was asked if he was beginning to panic.

“Not in the slightest,” he laughed. “It has quite energised the debate. Labour is, in a way it didn’t do last time, having a bigger debate about first principles, big ideas that can change things.

“The question is though what do we do at the end of this debate because if we think that the way to go is to become a party of protest by saying we will put forward an agenda from the 70s or 80s, we are going to find it difficult; if that’s the decision.

“My take on it is, yes to the big ideas but make them credible, deliverable and speak to modern concerns; that’s the choice the party will have.”

He made clear there were no private talks with Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, to try to stop the Corbyn bandwagon and he stressed: “I’m not anticipating any.”

Mr Burnham admitted the “risk” was that if Labour chose the wrong leader, no names mentioned, it would be out of office for at least a decade.

“It’s not an internal pursuit. This is about the people who we have in our constituencies and what best serves their interests; that, at the end of the day, is the consideration people should have in their minds when they make this choice. It’s no good making a choice that makes the party members feel good and then loses another election.”