Gordon Brown: Scotland and England need to get on

26 August 2019, 16:22

Gordon Brown

Scotland could face decades of "constitutional conflict and division" if new ways are not found for Scotland and England to "live side by side", according to Gordon Brown.

Ahead of a speech at the Edinburgh Book Festival on Monday, the former Labour prime minister suggested that more can be achieved by promoting co-operation between the two countries, rather than by engaging in "seemingly endless confrontation".

And Mr Brown claimed a modern UK constitution would help to balance the national autonomy which he says Scots want.

In his speech, Mr Brown is expected to say: "Unless we find new ways for Scotland and England to live side by side, our country, with or without independence, faces decades of the 21st century riven by constitutional conflict and division without ever creating what Scots really want - a nation rich in opportunity and free from poverty.

"Scotland is today trapped between two extremes - Boris Johnson's anti-European conservatism, with Tory austerity now in its 10th year, and the hardline separatism now advocated by Nicola Sturgeon's SNP that is a recipe for hyper-austerity."

Mr Brown is also expected to outline his belief that it is important to move beyond the constitutional arguments.

He will say: "If we are serious about addressing Scotland's very real social and economic problems, the debate within our country must move beyond this Conservative-Nationalist Punch and Judy show - with every future election simply a re-run of the bitterly divisive 2014 referendum and without ever making a difference to real lives.

"The starting point of a modern union is that promoting co-operation between Scotland and England within the UK will achieve far more than a seemingly endless confrontation between Scotland and England.

"The vast majority of us are proud Scottish patriots who love our country and its institutions and most of whom would not describe ourselves as nationalists who see life only in terms of a never-ending struggle between an 'us' and a 'them'."

And the former prime minister is also expected to explain the benefits he believes a federal-style division of powers between Westminster and Holyrood could bring.

He will say: "Any country's independence is limited by its interdependence and if the SNP applied the logic that has led them to support sharing sovereignty inside the European Union and were not obsessed by ending all connections with their neighbours in England, there would be a settled Scottish consensus in favour of a modern UK constitution that would balance the national autonomy Scots people desire with the cross border co-operation that we need.

"That would mean a progressive and clear-cut federal-style division of powers between Westminster and Edinburgh and innovative constitutional reforms to guarantee funding, with the longer-term aim of reconstituting the House of Lords as a Senate representative of the Nations and Regions.

"The Scottish people voted for a Scottish Parliament - not for a separate Scottish state."

He is expected to add: "Currently the most relevant building block, if we are to meet the needs and aspirations of Scottish people, is that the Scottish Parliament should function, as originally intended, as a force for social justice and economic opportunity and not as a battering ram for constitutional warfare.

"While, from 1999, the new Parliament gradually established itself in the affections of the Scottish people, the fact is that particularly during the past decade it has, so far, failed to deliver a fairer and more prosperous Scotland.

"So the time has come to argue for change, a Scottish Parliament acting explicitly and effectively as a genuine force for social, economic and educational progress."