By Angela Haggerty
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown told an audience in Govan on Monday that Scotland benefits from the pooling of UK resources and would be better off within the union with its own secured parliament.
Mr Brown told a United With Labour conference that Scotland receives nine per cent of the money spent on pensions, the same amount as London, although Scotland has only 8.6 per cent of the UK population compared to London’s 13.5 per cent, adding: “We allocate resources not on the basis of nationality, but on the basis of need.”
The former Labour leader added that there would be “substantial risks” associated with splitting up British pensions and said Scotland should stay within the union but with legislative assurance that the Scottish parliament would be a permanent feature in Scotland’s future.
“We pool and share resources and we do so so that we have equal economic, social and political rights for working people, for pensioners, for people in need of healthcare or unemployed people in need of a job, throughout the whole of the United Kingdom,” said Mr Brown.
“I believe we should write this into the constitution, for the first time making it explicit that the purpose of the Union is not just defence security, is not just trading relationships, but to pool and share our resources for the benefit of working people, the elderly, children and families, in all parts of the United Kingdom.
“I would also write in the British constitution that the Scottish Parliament is permanent, irreversible and indissolvable.”
The MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath went on to attack the SNP for failing to set up a working party to address the affordability of pensions and said the SNP’s policies would result in a “race to the bottom”.
Mr Brown spoke in Govan as First Minister Alex Salmond delivered a speech at an event in Fraserburgh. Mr Salmond argued the importance of a written constitution for Scotland and pointed towards the economies of countries like Norway and Sweden as models, saying a Norway-style oil fund would be beneficial for Scotland.
“The time is now to establish an oil fund creating stable public finances and ensuring natural resources benefit future generations as they have done in Norway,” he said.
Mr Salmond went on to take a swipe at wider UK policies and said an independent Scotland
would “never have participated in an illegal occupation of Iraq or introduced something as socially regressive as the bedroom tax”, adding that the intervention of SNP and Paid Cymru MPs in the UK parliament last week helped avoid “a headlong rush to engagement” in Syria.During the Govan event, Mr Brown attacked the SNP’s approach to the independence debate and made reference to Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech when speaking of his vision for Scotland.
“Because he gave a speech that said ‘I have a dream’ people remembered what he said, and that is the same thing about what we are saying now,” he said.
“We have a big idea. We believe Scotland is a nation. No one is more proud of being a Scot than I am. We believe Scotland should have its own parliament to make decisions about its own affairs.
“But I believe also that we are part of something bigger. They [the SNP] want to create the impression the only debate in town is between their vision of independence and those people who oppose it," he added.
Commenting on the speech today, Linda Fabiani MSP, a member of the Referendum Bill Committee, said:
"The fact is that the only way to entrench the Scottish Parliament is with a Yes vote and independence - including the additional democratic advance of a written constitution, which is light years ahead of anything on offer from Westminster. Under the UK system, Westminster is and remains sovereign - rather than the people - and Scotland would continue to be subject to Westminster governments that we didn't vote for, imposing measures such as the appalling Bedroom Tax against the votes of 90 per cent of Scottish MPs.
"Mr Brown's speech sounds like an ill-thought out reaction to the latest poll, which as well as putting Yes a point ahead also shows that people trust the Scottish Parliament rather than Westminster to make decisions for Scotland by a factor of nearly four-to-one.
"In any event, Mr Brown's speech is another illustration of a Westminster politician offering something in opposition that he singularly failed to deliver when he was Prime Minister. The reality is that only a Yes vote next September will deliver the powers over the economy and welfare that the people of Scotland want - a No vote is a vote for no more powers."