SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: Gordon Brown has spelled out the new powers which he says Scotland is guaranteed after a No vote, claiming that the UK is being “irreversibly transformed” by the spread of devolution.
The former prime minister revealed yesterday he has formally requested Westminster allocates time for debate immediately after the referendum, to get a timetable for implementing more Holyrood powers.
All three of the main Westminster parties have issued their own proposals on greater devolution, but have faced criticism over the lack of clarity about exactly what Scots can expect.
But Mr Brown said a “new Union” of the 21st century was being forged which spelled the end of the “all powerful” centralised Westminster system, in a keynote speech in London yesterday.
New powers over income tax and welfare, as well as more economic and employment controls, will be handed to Holyrood, the former premier added.
It came as Labour sought to regain the initiative in the referendum campaign yesterday, with Scottish party leader Johann Lamont hitting the campaign trail in Nicola Sturgeon’s Glasgow Southside constituency – prompting a Twitter spat between the pair.
Labour has been on the back foot in recent days after a YouGov poll found a big shift in the party’s traditional vote towards independence which left the rival Yes and No camps almost neck and neck.
Mr Brown insisted yesterday that a No vote does not mean no change. “A No vote will instead usher in further constitutional reforms,” he said.
“Now no-one can ignore the basic fact that the United Kingdom is being irreversibly transformed into the new Union of the 21st century.”
But Mr Brown insisted that, as well as the additional tax-raising powers coming to Holyrood in the Scotland Act next year, there are a number of areas where the parties already agree on even more devolution after a No vote.
This includes more power over income tax, as well as attendance allowance payments to disabled OAPs and housing benefit which could prevent another bedroom tax-style measure being imposed on Scotland by London.
Each of the parties also have plans for more economic and employment powers, which would be “substantial”, Mr Brown added.
The former Labour leader said he felt a “responsibility” to make sure the demand for more powers was met “as soon as possible.” He added: “I will personally seek to lead a debate on the floor of the House of Commons in the first week that Westminster returns after the referendum, with the specific aim of confirming the public and well-understood agreement on the process and timetable for further devolution.
“I have already written to the Speaker of the House of Commons asking him to recognise the significance of this matter by setting aside time in the first days back for me to put the case.
“This way, there can be doubt of the strength of the UK Parliament’s commitment to change and no going back on the promise of further legislation.”
Ms Lamont was accompanied by party activists on a visit to Govan in Ms Sturgeon’s constituency, amid claims that large swathes of Labour voters are backing Yes and could help deliver independence.
Ms Lamont pointed to YouGov polling which shows even more SNP voters from 2011 plan to reject independence.
She also fired off a cheeky message to Ms Sturgeon on Twitter: “Had a great time in your constituency this morning.”
But Ms Sturgeon hit back: “I’ve seen Yes canvass results in ur constituency, so know why u don’t want to be there.”