By Anne-Marie O’Donnell
The re-launch of the anti-independence No campaign was thrown into “chaos” this week after its most high profile figures publicly contradicted each other over Scotland’s future within the union.
In a direct contradiction to claims made by former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown during a speech on Saturday that Scotland’s devolved position would be strengthened under a future Labour government, Dunfermline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty proclaimed there wasn’t “any support at Westminster” for Scotland to receive more devolved powers.
Mr Docherty said: “I don’t believe there is any support at Westminster for Scotland unilaterally getting further devolution without changes to the current constitutional and financial agreements. The choice in September is between separation and the settled system of devolution.”
Mr Docherty’s comments will come as an embarrassment for Labour’s No campaign after former PM Mr Brown included “maximum devolution of powers in training, transport, health, the Crown Estates Commission and the running of elections” in his post-No vote vision of Scotland.
During his speech, Mr Brown added: “I am of the view that 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 Brown also used his speech to attack the SNP, claiming that the independence party had failed to show how it would protect the welfare state in an independent Scotland.
However, SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell, who sits on the Referendum Bill Committee, said the No campaign had been left red-faced following the blunder.
“This double whammy of bust-ups is a huge embarrassment for the No campaign on the day of their attempted re-launch – and a stark reminder of exactly what a No vote means,” he said. “Gordon Brown will be seething that fellow Labour MP Thomas Docherty has exposed his talk of more powers for Scotland under the Westminster system for what they are – bogus and misleading.”
As well as the apparent disagreement between Mr Brown and Mr Docherty, Labour MP Jim Murphy has spoken out against the “poison” of the Conservatives in Scotland, despite his party being onside with the Tories in the No campaign.
Mr Muphy told BBC Scotland’s Sunday Politics Show: “Tory policies are a poison that Scotland doesn’t want to drink and doesn’t have to drink.”
However Mr Murphy himself has been pictured smiling alongside Tory politicians as they campaign against Scottish independence as part of Better Together.
Mr Maxwell added that the latest series of events within the No camp showed the “chaos” that the campaign is in.
“Jim Murphy’s aggressive language on what Tory governments mean for Scotland only serves to highlight the gains of independence,” he said. “With a Yes vote Scotland will always get the governments that we vote for, and no longer be governed by the ‘poisonous’ Tories.
“The No camp is in chaos – Alistair Carmichael’s efforts to put a shine on their negative campaign have been discredited by his own people before he’s even said a word. The only way that the people of Scotland can achieve the powers they want to build a fairer and more prosperous nation is to vote Yes in September.”