Brown’s speech makes case for Yes vote say SNP

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  By a Newsnet reporter

A speech by former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown in which he argues for more powers for the Scottish Parliament has been described as making the case for a Yes vote by the SNP.

According to advanced reports of his speech Mr Brown will say people in Scotland “want change and not the status quo”.

The former Labour leader will also call for changes to the constitution that will make the Scottish Parliament “irreversible”, although it is not clear if Mr Brown is calling for Westminster to lose the power to take back powers currently devolved.

Responding, the SNP has claimed the speech makes the case for independence.  The nationalists have also questioned the former Prime Minister’s commitment to seeing significant powers handed over to Scots by pointing out that when in power Mr Brown actually blocked some of the recommendations from the Calman Commission.

SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP said:

“Gordon Brown’s speech unwittingly makes the case for a Yes vote in September, because he had over a decade as Chancellor and Prime Minister to deliver these new powers for the Scottish Parliament, and did none of them.

“Even worse, as Prime Minister Mr Brown actually blocked transferring control of Air Passenger Duty and other powers to the Scottish Parliament – even though this was specifically recommended by the Calman Commission.”

In his speech Mr Brown will claim that “enhanced devolution within the Union” would offer the people of Scotland a “fairer deal and a better dividend”.

Mr Brown will use his speech to push for a future Labour government, and say: “The party that first created a powerful Scottish Parliament is best placed to strengthen devolution and to create a stronger Scottish Parliament in a stronger UK,

“We can show how with our reforms, to be implemented by Labour administrations in Westminster and in Edinburgh, we can address some of the greatest social and economic challenges a future Scotland faces.”

Mr Hosie challenged the claim by the former Labour leader that his party were capable of dealing with Scotland’s social and economic challenges.

“Gordon Brown’s speech sounds as if he has no idea what is going on in the real world – the reality is that the welfare state is being dismantled by Westminster.  George Osborne has announced £12 billion more welfare cuts, hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest, and Labour are engaged in a Dutch auction with the Tories about who will cut the most.” He said.

This week Conservative Chancellor George Osborne announced another £12.5bn worth of cuts have been planned for after the next UK General election.  Mr Osborne’s counterpart Ed Balls has confirmed that the Labour party will push through the same cuts if elected.

Mr Hosie added: “Scotland’s finances are stronger than the UK’s as a whole – we generate 9.9 per cent of UK tax revenues but get just 9.3 per cent of the spending, and therefore a smaller share of our national wealth is spent on welfare, which means that pensions and benefits are more affordable for Scotland.

“A majority of people in Scotland believe that decisions on tax and welfare should be taken in the Scottish Parliament, not Westminster – and the only way to achieve that is to vote Yes for an independent Scotland in September.”

According to newspaper reports, Mr Brown is expected to reveal his own list of proposed new powers next month.

His demands for new powers coincide with the emergence of Professor Jim Gallagher as a high profile spokesman for the Better Together campaign, which is headed by Mr Brown’s party colleague Alistair Darling.

However in a series of radio and TV appearances, the academic signalled a reluctance for a drive towards new additional powers for Scotland by the anti-independence campaign group and instead suggested that Scots were not aware of the extra powers already agreed by Westminster.

Asked on Scotland Tonight if he hoped to forge a consensus amongst the Unionist parties for more powers, the academic replied: “That’s not my job at the moment, my job is to focus on the positive case”

He added: “Of course there is immediately a sign of more powers for Holyrood in the Scotland Act which will was passed on a cross party basis just a couple of years ago and which will come into effect almost immediately after the referendum vote if the Scottish people vote to stay in the United Kingdom.”

Pressed if he thought Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems should offer more powers beyond the Scotland Act, the Better Together member said each of the parties was currently looking at the issue and that it was “up to them” to come to a decision.

In his speech, Mr Brown will also repeat many of the now well-rehearsed attacks on independence with references to EU membership and oil revenue.