Gordon Brown warns: ' Retreat into 19th century nationalism is not an option'
THE Prime Minister will today stamp his authority on devolution discussions by stressing he will continue to make the case for the Union.
As Des Browne, the Scottish Secretary, announces the launch of the constitutional commission set up to examine more powers for the Scottish Parliament, Gordon Brown warns that there must be " no retreat into 19th century nationalism".
His strong intervention will be seized upon by critics of the commission, who claim the result of its deliberations are a foregone conclusion and that Mr Brown has closed his mind to any real change.
The Prime Minister also wants more focus in Scotland on wider issues such as the economy and national security to remind the population of the importance of the United Kingdom and the Westminster government.
In an article published today, he claims the Union reflects selfinterest for all the nations within " the world's most successful multinational state", but it is more than " a contract of convenience that can be renegotiated".
" The Union is a multiplier for good that too often and for too long has been taken for granted," he wrote. " It is time now to explain how the Union can benefit all of us and not at the expense of each other."
His comments come as Wendy Alexander, the Scottish Labour leader, Annabel Goldie, the Scottish Conservative leader, and Nicol Stephen, their Scottish Liberal Democrat counterpart, prepare to unveil the person who is to chair the commission. In the Commons today Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, is due to publish his latest constitutional reform proposals.
He will set out a statement of values that define British citizenship, with the case for a bill of citizens' rights and obligations. The constitutional commission will start work soon with the aim of making recommendations on which powers should be transferred from Westminster – and any that should be returned from Holyrood – within the next year.
The commission is Ms Alexander's flagship policy and an attempt to counter the SNP's national conversation, a discussion about independence. She has said the body should consider introducing more tax raising powers for Holyrood. But yesterday, Mr Brown was accused of attempting to " downgrade" the commission by renaming it a " review". The Scotland Office issued a news release describing the body as the " Scottish Parliament Review". Until now, Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories at Holyrood have all described the tripartite group as the Scottish Constitutional Commission.
This was the name given to the body when it was granted parliamentary approval, and a spokesman for Labour in the Scottish Parliament was adamant yesterday that there had been no change of name. However, the SNP was delighted with the confusion.
Bruce Crawford, the business manager, said: " Gordon Brown has humiliated Wendy Alexander by seizing control of her commission, downgrading it to a ' working party' and reducing ( her] big vision to an attack on the Liberal Democrats for refusing to consider handing powers back to London."
A spokeswoman for Alex Salmond, the First Minister, added: "The question now is why the ' review', intended to be a body of the Scottish Parliament, has been taken over by Gordon Brown and announced by his Scotland Office colleagues."
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