Following Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement of a second Scottish independence referendum, former prime minister Gordon Brown has outlined a potential third option for post-Brexit Scotland.
At the Fife Festival of Ideas last week, Brown urged for Scotland to be given more powers in the Brexit process.
In his speech at the event, Brown said: “You can call it a more federalistic option, you can call it in the more traditional way Scottish home rule, you can call it federal home rule.
“I’m calling it the third option, a Scottish patriotic way forward,” he said.
“A new third option can unify our country and end the bitter and divisive yes-versus-no conflict that will continue to rip us apart. It is time to transcend the bitter division and extremism of an inflexible, die-hard conservatism at war with an intransigent and even more hardline nationalism,” he continued.
Speaking on the first minister, Brown was quoted in The Courier saying: “Nicola Sturgeon believes there is only one alternative to the status quo and that’s independence.
“Theresa May believes there is only one alternative to independence and that’s the status quo.
“Both have something in common: they assume that the only form of sovereignty that really matters is state sovereignty.
“By contrast, we start from popular sovereignty – the idea that power rests with the people and that the Scottish people should choose the best route to advance our values and interests,” he concluded.
The proposal, which garnered significant support at the Scottish Labour annual conference, has been backed by senior party leaders, although leader Jeremy Corbyn has not released his opinion on the issue.
Brown argues that a system of federal home rule would allow the Scottish parliament to control key issues, further to those given under devolution, such as industrial investment.
He argues that this would allow the country to pool and share spending to protect the Scottish economy against shocks.
Defence, foreign affairs, pensions and basic welfare powers would continue to be controlled at a UK level.
In reaction to Brown’s speech, the Scottish National Party’s deputy leader Angus Robertson told the BBC: “The Labour Party is not in a position to deliver a pizza at the moment. They’re in opposition in Westminster, they’re totally divided.
“Labour is so weak in Scotland now that they are the third force in political, I mean, they’re not even a force”.
A spokesman for the Conservative Party also released a statement saying: “The UK government has already confirmed more powers will come to all parts of the UK when we leave the EU. Mr Brown’s speech only serves to highlight why the SNP’s plan for an independence referendum in April 2019 is so ill-considered. The Brexit process will be ongoing at that time and proposals to strengthen devolution, like Mr Brown’s, will still be on the table.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat peer Jeremy Purvis told the BBC: “This latest intervention by Gordon Brown adds to the momentum that we are seeing for a federalist way forward. We have been at the forefront on pressing the case for a reformed, federal, fair and prosperous UK where the aspirations of the people of Scotland can be met.”
Image: Downing Street