Gordon Brown: Give Scotland more power or risk division

Gordon Brown to call for EU powers and cash to go to Holyrood. Picture: PA
Gordon Brown to call for EU powers and cash to go to Holyrood. Picture: PA
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Gordon Brown will today warn UK ministers they risk committing “one of the biggest power grabs” in UK history if they fail to hand the Scottish Parliament control of responsibilities and funding currently managed by the EU after Brexit.

The former prime minister will say a “third option” for Scotland’s future involving a federal UK with a raft of new powers for Holyrood is the only way to avoid a second independence referendum and years of “bitter division”. Mr Brown will call for the Scottish Parliament to be handed control of £800 million in current European spending and get power to set VAT rates, sign international treaties, and control agriculture, fisheries, environmental regulation, employment and energy.

In a speech at the Festival Of Ideas in Kirkcaldy, Fife, against the backdrop of a constitutional stand-off between the UK and Scottish governments, he will also propose the Bank of England becomes a Bank of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland “to reinforce the fact that the pound is for everyone”.

The SNP has accused Theresa May of seeking to undermine devolution by suggesting powers currently held by the EU over devolved areas like agriculture and fisheries could stay with Westminster after Brexit.

Mr Brown, an architect of the 2014 “vow” promising Holyrood more powers in the event of a No vote to independence, has already pledged to join forces with Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale to campaign for a People’s Constitutional Convention to look at how power is distributed across the nations and regions of the UK.

“The status quo has been overtaken by events because unless powers now with the European Union are repatriated from Brussels to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the regions, Whitewall will have perpetrated one of the biggest power grabs by further centralising power,” Mr Brown is expected to say.

“Tory and Nationalist extremism should not rob us of a third option that can give the Scottish people more powers, offer honest answers about how we can pay for our public services and, faced with the post-Brexit threat to our employment and industry, address the urgent issue of how we create new jobs by exporting and trading successfully with Europe and the rest of the world.

“Most of all, a new third option can unify our country and end the bitter and divisive Yes v No conflict that will continue to rip us apart. It is time to transcend the bitter division and extremism of an inflexible, die-hard conservatism at war with an intransigent and even more hard-line nationalism.”

Ms Dugdale said: “Gordon and I have been working closely together as Labour puts forward an alternative to the constitutional extremes offered by the SNP and the Tories.

“One message from the independence and EU referendums was that people wanted more control over their lives. That’s why Labour’s plan for a People’s Constitutional Convention and a federal UK will transform where political and economic power will lie in our country.”