Brown warns of ‘Tory trap’ on devolution

Gordon Brown has warned of the dangers of walking into a Tory trap on devolution.

Gordon Brown has warned of the dangers of walking into a Tory trap on devolution.

Under the Conservative’s proposals for the future of Devolution in Scotland, drawn up by the former leader of the House of Lords, Lord Srathclyde, the Scottish parliament would be given full income tax raising powers, making it accountable for 40 per cent of the money it spends.

But the former prime minister has warned that this now constitutes a trap designed to prevent Scottish representation in votes on budget decisions as they relate to income tax.

Brown has published a new 14 point plan on the powers he feels Holyrood should now gain, including powers to  raise a further £2bn in tax revenues and to keep 50 per cent of total VAT income in Scotland – around £4bn.

In a letter addressed to his constituency party in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, he said of the situation:

“The Tory trap that we are in danger of falling into is to devolve all decisions on Scotland’s income tax rates away from Westminster and then to deny Scotland representation in votes on budget decisions on income tax rates.

“This would be clearly against the material interests of the people of Scotland and put the Union itself at risk. They must now demonstrate that it is not true that on the morning after the referendum the Conservative party stopped thinking about Scotland and started thinking only about the Conservative party.”

Meanwhile in a swipe at David Cameron’s attempts to link further powers for Scotland to English votes for English Laws, Brown continued:

“At this point we need to understand that whatever the disagreements now over the status of Scottish MPs, the pre-referendum vow signed by each of the pro-devolution parties’ leaders contained no ifs, no buts and had no conditional clauses and no strings attached and it was not presented as part of wider proposals yet to be unveiled, but as stand-alone and self-contained.”

Brown has, as a result, called for 100,000 Scots to sign a petition organised by 38 Degrees calling on Westminster to keep its promises on devolution, which he intends to present to the House of Commons on the day that leads a backbench debate on the subject on the 16 October.

Lending its support for the campaign, the Daily Record, the paper used by Cameron, Clegg and Miliband to make their now famous ‘vow’ to the people of Scotland, has  made clear that there can be no going back on the promises made. Its editorial today concludes:

“As the petition states, delayed or broken promises are unacceptable.

“Politicians have a real chance to deliver change for Scotland as part of the UK. There will be time to work out the details and the party political tribes need space to make their case.

“Political fallouts along the way are inevitable. But what matters is the direction of travel. Because a promise is a promise. And we expect this promise to be delivered in full.”

Brown’s intervention comes as the man charged with leading efforts to secure consensus on powers for Scotland, Lord Smith of Kelvin has outlined how the public and campaigners can have their say as part of his work.

Meanwhile the divisions between the parties continue unabated following the referendum almost two weeks ago.

Speaking to a fringe event at the Conservative conference yesterday, the party’s leader in Scotland Ruth Davidson has ruled out any prospect of devo-max, believing that for the SNP to push such an agenda would not be in good faith as it would effectively be seeking to “push independence by stealth”.

Declaring that Davidson’s comments were simply “not on” given that people of Scotland were “clearly and unambiguously promised substantial additional powers by the Westminster parties”, the SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell said:

“It shows an extraordinary degree of bad faith for Ruth Davidson to now try and dictate the terms that the Smith Commission and people across Scotland must be free to discuss.”

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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