Brown proposes greater devolution if Scottish independence is rejected
Former PM calls for more powers in employment, health, transport and economy
Former British prime minister Gordon Brown outlines his plans in Glasgow yesterday. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown has called for greater devolution powers for Scotland if voters there reject this September’s independence referendum.
Mr Brown has remained aloof from Better Together, the leading group opposing independence up to now – partly because too many Scots see it as influenced by the Conservative Party.
In his speech in Glasgow, Mr Brown called for extra freedoms for Scotland, including a legal guarantee the Scottish parliament cannot be closed by Westminster, as is technically possible now.
Equally, Holyrood should get more powers over employment, health, transport and economic regeneration – along with powers to raise up to 40 per cent of the money it spends. Taxes should be pooled and shared with “accountability to the electors in all the arenas where money is spent”, said Mr Brown, who is still MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.
Westminster should not be able to overrule, or undermine Holyrood in any of the areas in which it enjoys devolved powers, he said.
“Because the issue is about empowering people not states, a radical transfer of powers downwards from both Westminster and Edinburgh to local communities,” he said.
His intervention is significant, since the former Labour leader’s reputation in Scotland remains high, even if it has still to recover in other parts of Britain after his 2010 general election defeat.
If implemented, the changes would “bury for good the idea that Westminster enjoys undivided sovereignty” and reject forever the out-of-date idea of the UK as a unitary centralised state, he said.
Mr Brown said he was entering the debate “because a moment cannot now be lost in detailing the positive case for a strong Scottish parliament in a strong Britain”.
His “vision”, he said, is for “a clear, positive alternative to independence but is a far bigger, more modern, more forward-looking – and ultimately more appealing – idea than an independent Scotland”.