Cameron putting fragile Union at risk, warns Brown

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown called David Cameron 'unstatesman-like'. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown called David Cameron 'unstatesman-like'. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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Gordon Brown has accused David Cameron of putting Scotland’s place in the UK at risk and said the Prime Minister had been “unstatesman-like” in his response to the No vote.

Previously, Mr Brown attacked Mr Cameron’s intervention the day after the referendum, when the Prime Minister set out plans to block Scottish MPs from voting on issues that affect only England and Wales in the House of Commons.

Yesterday, the former Labour Prime Minister said the Conservatives were “playing fast and loose with the constitution” as he warned that handing Scottish MPs a “second status” role in the House of Commons would stoke resentment north of the Border.

Mr Brown went on to claim that the Conservatives are “100 per cent wrong” with the party’s plan to devolve full income tax powers to Holyrood and that the move would be a “gift to the separatists”.

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The Conservatives want Holyrood to be responsible for setting the rates and bands of personal income tax. They also propose that a share of VAT receipts raised in Scotland are assigned to the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Brown claimed that handing full income tax responsibilities to MSPs would “drive a wedge between Scotland and England” and make the UK’s constitution unstable.

His scathing attack on the Conservatives yesterday came after he urged Holyrood’s unionist parties to unite around his plan to make the Scottish Parliament responsible for raising more than half of its own revenue.

The Smith Commission – tasked with agreeing more powers for Scotland in the wake of the independence referendum – has published each of the Scottish parties’ proposals.

Mr Brown, who has called on the Conservatives to agree to devolving more control over welfare and borrowing, claimed the Tory proposals would put the “fragile” UK at risk.

He said: “They’ve got to understand their measures are a gift to the separatists. They would play into the hands of the nationalist party; they would drive a wedge between Scotland and England and make the constitution unstable.”

Speaking on Sky Television’s Murnaghan programme, Mr Brown added: “I think the Conservatives have got to realise what is at stake here is the future of the United Kingdom. It is still fragile.”

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The former prime minister and chancellor warned that Mr Cameron’s plans to legislate for England-only votes in the House of Commons on areas such as health and schools, which are devolved to Holyrood, could “imperil the future of the Union”.

Critics of the Prime Minister’s plan have said that votes on England’s NHS and education sector have consequences for Scotland’s spending, with the block grant Holyrood receives annually from Westminster.

Mr Brown warned that the Union could be “lost by accident” if the UK government made mistakes in the way the new devolution settlement, promised by the main Unionist parties, is delivered.

He said: “There are lots of grievances as a result of what Mr Cameron said the day after the referendum. I think he did so in an unstatesman-like way and I think he should regret what he did.

“You cannot promise Scotland something on a Tuesday then change the offer the day after the referendum on the Friday and I think the Conservatives have got to think again about playing fast and loose with the constitution.

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“Nations can be lost by accident. Unions can disintegrate because mistakes are made and I would not like to think the Conservative-led government is going to make mistakes that will imperil the future of the union.”

Mr Brown added: “It doesn’t make sense to do what Mr Cameron suggested the day after the referendum, that Scottish MPs would be second-status, second-class citizens at Westminster, unable to vote on certain key issues like the income tax rate.

“So the Conservatives have got it wrong – they’re a hundred per cent wrong.”

A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “We think that income tax should be devolved with no strings attached, and look forward to trying to persuade others – including Mr Brown – of that case.

“These proposals were meticulously considered over the course of more than a year.”

SNP MP Pete Wishart said: “Gordon Brown’s contributions to the debate on Scotland’s future are becoming increasingly surreal and are full of inconsistencies and contradictions.

“He hasn’t even been able to persuade the current Labour leadership to go as far in delivering the new powers he wants.”