By Martin Kelly
Former UK PM Gordon Brown has claimed that giving Holyrood full fiscal powers will lead to Scots paying more taxes.
The former Labour leader’s prediction came during a lecture at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, in which he also claimed that having a devo-max option on the referendum ballot paper would be bad for Scotland.
Mr Brown also warned that citizen rights enjoyed by Scots would be under threat if Scotland opted for independence.
In the lecture, Mr Brown said: “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.”
He added: “Given that there’s a pooling and sharing of resources at the moment, there is no escape from the fact that if you want the same level of services in Scotland you will have to raise taxes in Scotland.
“My worry about fiscal autonomy, which is now being proposed as the next stage of devolution, is that fiscal autonomy means more taxes in Scotland, not in a progressive way at all but simply to fill the gap that’s left by not pooling and sharing the resources of the UK.”
Mr Brown joined a chorus of Unionist MPs in seeking to politicise the London Olypmics, and claimed that Scotland’s athletes would not have achieved the success they did had they not been part of the UK. The Labour MP also claimed the NHS and the BBC were reasons for keeping the Union.
He added: “So the health service is a common insurance policy to the risks that people have in health. It’s a National Insurance system that allows us to raise money to pay for the whole healthcare system.
“The BBC licence fee is shared across the whole UK.”
Responding to Mr Brown’s lecture, a spokesman for Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney said he was wrong on his views on tax and spending.
“Gordon Brown’s attack on fiscal autonomy can only backfire on the anti-independence campaign – because the more the Unionist parties continue to offer Scotland nothing, the more they will encourage people to vote Yes to an independent Scotland.
“Scotland is better off than the UK as a whole, and therefore Gordon Brown is wrong on tax and spending, and wrong about fiscal autonomy and independence.
“Over the five years to 2010/11, Scotland was in a stronger financial position relative to the UK as a whole by a total of £8.6 billion – that’s over £1,600 for every man, woman and child in Scotland.
“And in 2010/11, Scotland contributed 9.6% of UK taxes, but we received only 9.3% of UK spending.
“The bottom line is that Scotland will be better off with independence and control of our own resources.”
SNP Treasury spokesman Stewart Hosie MP insisted Scotland couldn’t afford to rely on the Tory led coalition to protect Scottish jobs, and added:
“The question that Gordon Brown and the anti-independence parties need to answer is why they prefer these key powers over jobs and the economy being held by a Tory-led Government at Westminster – which has used them to create the double-dip recession – rather than by the Scottish Parliament which is 100% accountable to the people of Scotland.
“Scotland’s interests are best served by becoming an equal and independent nation so that we have the powers needed to realise the potential of every single person who lives here – and by maintaining the social union with our friends and neighbours south of the border, including the Queen as our joint head of state.”
Meanwhile, an SNP MSP has said that Labour must take heed of Henry McLeish’s warning about their involvement with the Tories in the anti-independence campaign.
The former First Minister urged the party he used to lead to embrace greater devolved powers for Scotland, in an appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
SNP MSP Chic Brodie described Mr McLeish’s comments as a “bombshell” for the No Campaign which outlines just how lacking a positive vision for Scotland Labour is.
He said: “It is illuminating for the people of Scotland – including Labour voters who are demanding more from their party – to see a glimpse of what the Labour party should be doing if they are serious about their claims of offering a positive vision for Scotland.
“However, so far Johann Lamont and the Labour Party in Scotland’s leadership have offered nothing near to this as they remain united with the Tories in their negative No Campaign.
“Henry McLeish’s forthright and robust views will come as a bombshell to the No Camp. The Tories need Labour and Labour need to wake up to themselves and have an honest and open debate within their party on what they believe is the best path to take for Scotland’s future.
“The most recent poll put support for independence ahead of both the status quo and more devolved powers, it is clear that the electorate are also giving Labour’s position a big thumbs down.
“The Tory-led anti-independence campaign offers nothing to Scotland, and will only encourage more people to vote Yes to an independent Scotland.”