GORDON Brown has said talks on extending devolution should begin the day after the referendum if independence is defeated as he stated that the UK would be a “federal state” within two years with Holyrood and other regions of the UK handed equal status to Westminster.
The former Prime Minister talked about the “sharing of sovereignty” across the UK as he called for Scotland and the English regions to “unite” to demand a shift in power away from Westminster during an appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Mr Brown’s backing for federalism goes further than that set out in Scottish Labour’s plans to devolve the bulk of income tax to Holyrood in the event of a No vote.
Mr Brown said that a new federal settlement could be delivered two years after a No vote, with a series of regional and national assemblies across the UK and a federal government retaining powers over defence and foreign affairs.
The Labour MP said Scotland and English regions such as the North East could demand more powers as he stated there was a “mood that too much power rests in London”.
Mr Brown claimed the UK and Scottish governments could open talks about a radical extension of devolution the day after 18 September if Scots vote against independence.
He said: “When I was at university I heard a politician speaking and I’ll never forget what he said: This is a promise we will keep,” Mr Brown said.”I can understand how people are sceptical when promises are made.”I would say that there is no alternative to further devolution.”It’s not just that all parties have committed themselves to it, it’s that the people of Scotland know that these promises have been made not just by one party but all the parties that they want to see further change.”These parties will not command popular support in the general election in Scotland if they renege on their promises after the referendum.”I would suggest that the talks to agree this devolution should start immediately after September 18 so that we recognise that there is a will for change.”
Mr Brown claimed a package of enhanced devolution delivered after a No vote would prevent policies such as rail privatisation and the Poll Tax being imposed on Scotland.
He said: “We’re going to be, within a year or two, as close to a federal state as you can be in a country where one nation is 85 per cent of the population.
“There is now an all party agreement that they will bring in big changes after the referendum.”I believe that there is no alternative but to introduce these changes, which would be taxation powers for the parliament.
“It would mean that there would never be anything like a poll tax or a bedroom tax or rail privatisation imposed on Scotland against its will. There is a mood that too much power rests in London” but that this is about to change.”
Mr Brown, who also served as Chancellor for a decade, added that an independent Scotland would be relegated to a “neocolonial” relationship with the remainder of the UK if it keeps the pound.
He said: “On the important issues affecting our lives - interest rates, money supply, inflation, what happens to our living standards, employment, banking rescues - when it came to it we would have no formal input on the decisions being made.”We would have to accept them being made elsewhere and we would be creating by our own decision, with the SNP, a neocolonial relationship between us and the rest of the UK where we would have to accept the decisions that were made.”It is a worse outcome than now, and it is the worst possible outcome for Scotland.”The Oxford Dictionary defines neocolonialism as the use of economic, political, cultural, or other pressures to control or influence another country, especially the retention of such influence over a developing country by a former colonial power.”
Mr Brown also warned that the financial sector of an independent Scotland would be damaged by a Yes vote as he claimed 90 per cent of its customers were based in England.
He said: “There is undoubtedly a problem as 90 per cent of businesses in the financial sector are selling policies to English customers.
“The main customers for Scottish financial services are in England and we’ve got to recognise that there will be a case put that asks why should these financial services be regulated in Scotland when they are selling services to England.”