Gordon Brown: ‘People’s Convention’ could save UK

Former prime minister Gordon Brown. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Former prime minister Gordon Brown. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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GORDON Brown is to call for a new constitutional convention to “debate and set out the rights and responsibilities of citizens in each part of the UK” as he warns the Union is now on a “knife-edge”.

The former Prime Minister, in a speech to the Borders book festival tomorrow, will back a “People’s Convention” involving the opposition parties at Westminster, including the SNP, as well as faith groups and charities, but which could be led by a figure such as the Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Mr Brown will say that such a body would help uphold “the principle of equity between the nations and regions” in the constituent parts of the UK and promote “basic social and economic rights” such as free health care and pensions.

However, Mr Brown claims the SNP landslide on 7 May, which saw the nationalists win 56 of the 59 Westminster seats for Scotland, did not represent an increase in support for independence since last year’s referendum.

He says: “This year, in light of the dramatic events of the referendum and the general election, and with the future of the Union on a knife-edge, it is right for me to ask a far more fundamental and profound question: what does it mean to be Scottish in 2015 and as we approach the middle decades of the 21st century ?

“While no one should disguise the enormity of the nationalists’ electoral victory, it would be wrong to assume that the results signal any further rise in support for independence since last year’s referendum.

“Having discovered in their polling that the repeated mention of independence or a second referendum did not assist their vote, the SNP dropped both from their manifesto and have since been relegating fiscal autonomy into some far off future.”

Mr Brown adds: “Now in 2015 I would call a constitutional convention to debate and set out the rights and responsibilities of citizens in each part of the UK.

“If the current government will not lead, we should bring together a People’s Convention that opposition parties – Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Nationalists and others - and interested civic society and faith groups might join to discuss and discover how deep the shared values, mutual needs and common interests are that bind us together, and embark on an open and democratic dialogue, engaging with all the peoples of these islands, about how to ensure our constitutional arrangements can be reformed to meet all of our needs and aspirations. Perhaps Carwyn Jones, the respected head of the Labour government in Wales, could lead.”