By Eddie Nisbet
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has waded into the independence debate for the first time, announcing his desire to see greater levels of power-sharing across the United Kingdom.
In a speech in the east end of Glasgow today, Brown will set out six proposed “major” constitutional changes that will overhaul the current division of power between Westminster and Holyrood.
Among these mooted changes is a constitutional guarantee of the permanence of the Scottish Parliament.
“A moment cannot now be lost in detailing the positive case for a strong Scottish Parliament in a strong Britain,” Brown will tell a conference in Labour’s Scottish heartland to mark the beginning of a No tour of Scotland.
Speaking ahead of the conference, Brown has indicated that more coordinated measures are required to tackle Scotland’s social malaise regarding poverty, housing, unemployment and the environment.
The six “radical” constitutional changes to be proposed by Brown in his speech today are:
- Constitutional law proposed to guarantee the UK pool and share resources for the defence and security of the citizens of all four nations;
- The permanence of the Scottish Parliament enshrined in the British constitution for the first time;
- Increased powers for Holyrood in health, employment, transport and economic growth;
- A new tax sharing agreement that would balance pooled resources of the UK, including accountability to the electors where tax revenue is spent;
- New power-sharing partnerships to address shared social problems of poverty, housing needs, unemployment and environmental issues;
- A major transfer of powers running down from Westminster and Holyrood to more localised power for communities.\
Listen to Better Together spokesperson Ross MacRae on Gordon Brown’s speech today:
Brown’s No tour of Scotland is to appeal to those voters who want more powers for Holyrood short of being fully independent from the UK.
The latest polls indicate that the No vote is standing at 53% compared to 35% set to vote in favour of independence. With 12% still undecided, however, there is still plenty of political ground to be made up over the next 191 days.
Brown’s speech makes up one part of a double-pronged attack on independence, with former Liberal Democrat leader Mingus Campbell making a similar speech in Edinburgh.
Suggesting tax-raising powers could be delivered unto Scotland in the event of a No vote, Campbell is also calling for increased devolved powers as a viable alternative to independence:
“Gordon Brown’s approach, and indeed my approach and indeed the approach of the Lib Dems, is to look at the UK as a whole.
“I am endeavouring to point the way forward so that all of these contributions – for example from devo plus, from Reform Scotland – that all of these contributions make a very, very considerable – and in my view – effective alternative to the narrow minded view of independence.”