Brown weighs in on Scottish independence

Gordon Brown last night made a high profile return to the Scottish political scene, taking Alex Salmond’s dream of independence head on.

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Gordon Brown last night made a high profile return to the Scottish political scene, taking Alex Salmond’s dream of independence head on.

gordon-brownThe former prime minister warned of the consequences of no longer “pooling resources” with the entire UK and warned of higher taxes or reduced spending in the event of full scale fiscal devolution.

Citing the success of Scottish Olympians over the past fortnight, the former prime minister used a speech at the Edinburgh international book festival to outline the harm that could be done to Scottish interests in the event of independence.

In providing the annual Donald Dewar Memorial Lecture Brown told the audience:

One thing I take from the Olympics, a point that Sir Chris Hoy has already made for me – when we pool and share resources for the common good the benefit is far greater than would have occurred if we’d just added up the sum of the parts.

“So the National Health Service is common insurance policy … the BBC, shared across the United Kingdom. The armed forces, so you don’t have a Scottish, a Welsh and an English army.

“The Olympics it is pretty clear – we managed to do it in cycling with pooled resources – if you had just divided the money and put a tenth to Scotland and a tenth to Yorkshire, you could not have achieved the same results we did.”

Turning his attention to the prospects of Scotland gaining fiscal autonomy within the UK meanwhile, he argued that it amounted to a recipe for higher taxes and spending cuts. He explained:

“If you break up the fiscal union, if you break up the sharing and pooling of resources across the UK, then it’s clear that you will either have to cut public expenditure massively beyond what is being done at the moment, or you will have to tax Scottish people more.

“If you have full fiscal autonomy, you stop the pooling of resources across the UK and you can’t turn to the UK for help.

I worry about fiscal autonomy as the next stage of devolution. It means more taxes. What’s sometimes called devolution maxy is dangerous.”

Brown continued:

“Break up the union and then you will have regionally-varied minimum wage rates, and that will mean there will be a race to the bottom with one unit trying to undercut the other and then the good undercutting the bad and the bad undercutting the worse.

“Break up the union that we’ve created and you will have different social security rates. Some people may welcome that at the start, but you will end up with a pensioner being treated completely differently in one part of the United Kingdom from the other and people who are unemployed giving a completely different kind of treatment or disabled people a different kind of treatment.

I think people will think that is not progress, that is moving backwards, and there’ll be a competition to see who can cut resources more quickly.”


See also:

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland reaction: Team GB has brought the UK together 13 Aug 2012

Salmond’s summer slump continues 1 Aug 2012

Did the opening ceremony undermine the SNP’s attempts to break up the UK? 30 Jul 2012


Whilst a spokesperson for Scottish Finance Secretary, John Swinney argued that the former PM’s speech would “back fire”, not least because, he argued, that the unionist parties “continue to offer Scotland nothing” there was a sense of good will towards Brown’s speech in the press.

Declaring his contribution “refreshingly forward-looking” the Herald’s editorial concluded:

“A hunger for a nuanced public discussion on independence that goes beyond party dogma has been apparent for some time. Mr Brown has provided a timely reminder of the need for political parties, civic organisations and individuals keen to take part in the great debate to encompass both first principles and substance.

“He acknowledged the Scottish tradition of the democratic intellect. If there is life yet in that concept, now is the time to start exercising it.”

At the Guardian, speaking of his readiness to join “Team GB”, it’s editorial this morning observes:

“Now freed of the burdens of office himself, the former PM has woken up to the damage that Labour’s “insider” status in Scottish politics has done the party. After the nationalists formed a minority administration in 2007, the Labour opposition ended up carping about popular policies, such as axing prescription charges on technocratic grounds, freeing Mr Salmond to claim to be the authentic voice of Scotland’s social democratic mainstream.

“The first minister also talks about compassion and solidarity as specifically Scottish values. Mr Brown now seeks to snooker him, by adding the twist that these ideals find their concrete expression in an NHS sustained by UK-wide revenues, a welfare safety net which straddles the border and – inevitably – the successes of Team GB.

“If Scotland’s No campaign is another Team GB, Mr Brown has the passion as well as the initials to join their fight.”

Meanwhile, as Scotland Office minister, David Mundell, yesterday confirmed that the UK and Scottish governments have agreed on a timetable to settle the mechanics of a referendum, allowing the Scottish Parliament and government to control when it happens.

The Respect MP and Glaswegian, George Galloway, has used his column in the Daily Record to argue that the Olympics have made the case for the referendum to take place now. He writes:

“We are free to vote to quit Team GB. Now is the time to decide. If Salmond isn’t prepared to risk it, the Team GB parliament should. Fire the starter pistol, Mr Speaker.

“I must say I have egg on my face over the Olympics. I was proper churlish about them. I didn’t believe the British state – enfeebled by economic recession, divided by class and race and unresolved national questions, so out of step with what we once were – could possibly execute a Games as virtually flawless as these have been.

“I didn’t believe the British, brought low by their governments and others, were capable of embracing the whole thing with the joy that they have.

“That the team, GB, could get across the finishing line ahead of the others quite so many times – in fact, more times than at any games since the British Empire stood with its boots on the neck of a third of all humanity nearly a century ago.

“I underestimated just how much we would all enjoy the London Olympics and how, from Land’s End to John O’Groats, we would all feel together again.

“As I say, a good time for a referendum on Scotland’s future, no?”


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23 Responses to “Brown weighs in on Scottish independence”

  1. treborc

    Gordon what can you say…..nothing really he’s yesterday man

  2. slainte_mhath

    I cannot remember Gordon Brown or any of the other British Unionists after the disastrous Atlanta 1996 Olympic for the team called “Great Britain” where they obtained a single gold medal stating that was a reason for Scottish independence. Double standards???

  3. John Ruddy

    Good job we have your memory to rely on for things from 16 years ago then.

    And Scottish nationalists should know about “double standards” apparently we can cut taxes for the rich AND improve public services…

  4. charlie

    Gordon Brown is and was a fool. An example of a man promoted so far ahead of his abilities.

    He never had a clue about economics or history. Which resulted in the mess he left us in.

    What did it take him? 10 years to get his PhD in “the history of the scottish labour party”? A qualification you wouldn’t wipe your arse on.

  5. Newsbot9

    You’re literally arguing “No True Scotsman”.

  6. Newsbot9

    So, not only are you advocating career politicians, you don’t have a clue about how PhD’s used to work (there are shorter time limits now, but formerly…) and you think having studied relevant subjects is crap.

    Why, after all, you can always HIRE your advisers from those nice companies…

  7. Hearthammer

    Sorry Gordon, but you’re a failed Chancellor and a failed PM. A man so Scottish, he couldn’t even bring himself to admit he was born here. A man so out of touch, he doesn’t even bother to represent his constituents! A mna so right wing, he makes Cameron look like a one nation Tory.

    Goodbye Gordon. It’s not been nice knowing you!

  8. charles

    well, my answer got modded. not sure if that was because I used the f-word or insulted ‘he of the towering intellect’.

    ps why have go made the comments stop remembering who I am each time? it gets a pain adding my name and email address every time i want to comment

  9. Newsbot9

    Take a hint?

    And that’s disqus. Sign up for Twitter and use it to log in, it remembers that.

  10. Newsbot9

    Ah yes, another look at how you savagely reject the vast majority of your people.

    Given you’re on the far right of the NF, that you accuse others of being so is a bad joke.

  11. raymond delauney

    Gorgeous George is from Dundee.

  12. treborc

    He’s not right wing for god sake, he’s left, Jesus he helped the poorest in society with tax and child credits, but he was a poor communicator and a poor person at media.

    He did fail on what we now think of as being a personality, lets be honest we now have a great PR man in Cameron, but that all he is, PR and media savvy, same as Osborne, sadly the country is sinking but they look good.

    yes brown failed and he failed badly, actually he should have been a success because he was a good socialist lost in a Labour party full of Progress middle class upper class morons like Purnell, mandy, and the many many others who are career politicians.

  13. Newsbot10

    why would i want to sign up for twitter? i’m busy and just want to make an occasional comment without having to invent new usernames and passwords.

  14. Hearthammer

    Still stalking, I see. And still lying too!

  15. Newsbot9

    Ah yes, you think reading a public forum is stalking, and that the truth is a lie. Keep up the works.

  16. Newsbot9

    Ah, so you prefer to whine. Well, have fun then.

  17. Newsbot9

    It’s a typical equivalence attack, sadly. It’s about moving the Overton window to the right, and it’s worked for the Tories.

  18. slainte_mhath

    No, you ‘literally’ don’t know what the word means.

    What I literally stated was “I cannot remember Gordon Brown or any of the other British Unionists
    after the disastrous Atlanta 1996 Olympic for the team called “Great
    Britain” where they obtained a single gold medal stating that was a
    reason for Scottish independence”.

    Perhaps try to answer a point being raised instead of your mind going off intangents and reading things which have not been written.

    There was 29x gold medals won by “Great Britain” in the 2012 Olympics and which is being used by British Nationalists as a case against the people of Scotland voting for the political independence of their country.

    To follow the logic, please explain why were the same British Nationalists after 1996 Olympics were not pushing for Scottish independence as there was 1x Gold medal for “Great Britain”?

  19. slainte_mhath

    I realise that it may be difficult for a Labour supporter/poltician to understand but study the subject of “Economics” then come back in four years if you still have any questions.

  20. Newsbot9

    So basically you’re saying that he’s no Scotsman at all. Well, that rather does point to one reason you’re demanding a blank cheque, if you’re planning to severely restrict citizenship.

    So sorry I don’t stick to your pre-chosen arguments.

    There is absolutely zero logic in your argument at all, you’ve invented a straw man and are spraying it with a napalm flame-thrower, and wondering why things are catching fire and people are annoyed with you.

  21. Newsbot9

    Ah yes, “shut up and sit down, you’re contradicting me”. Weak, especially since it’s YOUR party making the argument for economic magic.

  22. uglyfatbloke

    Tax credits etc….and a good thing too, but the very poorest people did actually become a little bit poorer under Brown and Blair, while the rich (everybody on over 50,000 a year) became a little bit richer and the very rich (over 100,000 – like doctors for instance) became a good deal richer.

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