Gordon Brown calls for deal on Holyrood powers

Gordon Brown. Picture: John Devlin
Gordon Brown. Picture: John Devlin
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GORDON Brown has called for a deal between the main unionist parties on extending devolution if Scotland votes against independence in September’s referendum.

The former prime minister said yesterday that moves towards a deal could start during the next few months between Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, on handing more powers to Holyrood.

Mr Brown said it was “inevitable” that Holyrood will get more powers as he delivered a keynote speech the day after the Scottish Conservatives unveiled plans to deliver further devolution in the event of a No vote.

With both Labour and the Lib Dems having already set out their proposals, Mr Brown said: “There is now all-party support, including Conservatives and Liberals, making it possible for the early delivery now of big changes in the constitution by an agreement between the different parties.”

He said a plan to extend Holyrood’s powers over jobs, health, social services and transport could unite the “vast majority of Scottish people” as the referendum enters its final 100 days next week.

The former Labour leader said a new package of devolution would prevent Westminster from imposing controversial policies such as the poll tax, the bedroom tax and rail privatisation on Scotland.

Mr Brown, speaking at the official launch of Labour’s No campaign in Edinburgh, said he would be taking on a greater role in the No campaign. He said: “In the next two weeks or more, we expect to be speaking to more than 5,000 people across Scotland, simply at town hall meetings, to explain our case.”

The former prime minister and chancellor said although he had quit frontline politics after leaving Downing Street in 2010, he had become involved in the No campaign to keep Scotland in the UK because of the impact independence could have on future generations.

He said: “This is about my children and my children’s children. Anyone who is a parent who is entering this campaign knows that this is not similar to a general election vote or similar to an ordinary vote in a council election or a European election.

“This is about the long-term future and it is an irreversible decision, so the votes we are casting are not just for ourselves or even our communities today, these are also being cast for our children and our children’s children.

“Everybody knows if the decision went one way, it would be irreversible and it would mean our children would be affected by something we had decided.”

Mr Brown’s call for a cross-party deal on devolution between the pro-UK parties came after the Scottish Conservatives set out their plans to hand Holyrood full powers over income tax rates, as well as control over air passenger duty and aspects of welfare.

Labour and the Lib Dems had already set out their own plans to extend devolution before the Tories unveiled their proposals, with both parties backing the transfer of key fiscal and tax powers to Holyrood.

However, Mr Brown called for an “early agreement” between Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems with the unionists all signing up to an agreed package of extra devolution.

He added: “There is an agenda for change. The idea that the SNP have been putting across, that nothing will happen if there was a No vote in September, is completely wrong.”

The Conservatives and Lib Dems suggested they would cooperate with Labour in pursuing greater devolution.

A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “[Leader] Ruth Davidson has made it perfectly clear our plans would require a consensus in both parliaments.”

A Scottish Lib Dem spokeswoman said: “All three pro-UK parties are committed to delivering more powers in the event of a No vote in September.”


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