Independence: Brown urges Scots not to give up on UK

GORDON Brown will return to front-line political campaigning tomorrow by spearheading Labour’s bid to keep Scotland within the UK, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.
Gordon Brown: Spearheading campaign. Picture: GettyGordon Brown: Spearheading campaign. Picture: Getty
Gordon Brown: Spearheading campaign. Picture: Getty

The former Prime Minister, who has remained largely out of the public eye since leaving Downing Street in 2010, will be the keynote speaker as the party launches its own campaign opposing Scottish independence.

Brown, who is still MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, is expected to argue that if Scottish Labour supporters vote to leave the UK it would mean abandoning colleagues in England to years of Tory rule.

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Brown will also suggest staying within the Union would mean it was far more likely that the Conservatives would be voted out at Westminster at the next general election, which would benefit Scotland as a whole.

Brown’s intervention at the campaign launch in Glasgow follows claims that Labour is alienating its own support base by lining up alongside the Conservatives and the Lib Dems in the ‘Better Together’ campaign.

It also comes as the latest polling shows that although support for independence has fallen to 31 per cent, Labour voters have ben identified as being as more likely to support a Yes vote than Lib Dem or Tory backers.

Labour’s “distinct” political campaign – to be titled “United with Labour” – will now attempt to set out the party’s own case on why Scotland should remain in the UK, despite the presence of a Conservative-led government at Westminster.

The architect of many of New Labour’s election campaigns over the past two decades, Brown has been privately pushing out ideas to party colleagues over recent months on how to win next year’s referendum vote.

However, he is not expected to officially lead the Labour pro-UK campaign and will not to be given a title.

Senior figures on the pro-­independence side acknowledge that Brown could be a major weapon in their opponents’ armoury. Despite losing the 2010 general election, the party in Scotland reversed the UK trend under his leadership, increasing both its share of votes and seats in Scotland.

The campaign also aims to contact half a million households in the next three months.

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Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour’s deputy leader and the campaign’s co-ordinator, said: “We are excited about putting forward our case for Scotland in the United Kingdom based on Labour values of solidarity, community, fairness , equality and social justice.”

He added: “Constitutional politics brings together people who wouldn’t normally be on the same side and we will continue to work with the Better Together campaign. But the Labour movement has a different view of Scotland’s future from the Conservatives and Liberals.”

An Ipsos Mori poll found last week that 13 per cent of Labour voters were planning to vote “yes” next year, compared to just 5 per cent of Tory voters and 4 per cent of Lib Dems. A further 11 per cent of Labour voters were undecided, compared to 4 per cent of Lib Dems and 6 per cent of Conservatives.

The Labour campaign will also seek to address concerns of senior party figures who have already expressed unease over its decision to line up alongside the Tories. Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy is among those who have said they would not want to share a platform with Conservative leader David Cameron. Dave Watson, of Unison,said: “While I appreciate the referendum campaign has to have a formal Yes and No campaign, most of us in the Labour movement have a huge difficulty with any campaign that includes the Tories.”

Richard Leonard, of the GMB union, said: “Let’s get out of the slipstream of the nationalists and the unionists and be ourselves.”

Last night, Alan Grogan of the Labour for Independence group said the party had picked “the wrong side” in campaigning for the Union.

He said: “We have tried to exert Labour values in the UK for years and we have never had the country we want because the power base of that country is in middle England. If we want the country we’d like to see, then the only way to to do that is through independence.”