Gordon Brown may not have helped the Union cause

The papers have caught up with Slugger on Gordon Brown’s emergence from political purdah to join the debate over Scottish independence. Brown it will be noted isn’t claiming an Olympic effect on a referendum that’s over two years away. His argument is in two parts; first, the Better Together case.   

One thing I take from the Olympics, a point that Sir Chris Hoy has already made for me – when we pool and share resources for the common good the benefit is far greater than would have occurred if we’d just added up the sum of the parts. So the National Health Service is common insurance policy … the BBC, shared across the United Kingdom. The armed forces, so you don’t have a Scottish, a Welsh and an English army.

Then he opens a substantially new front that no party has wished to confront – probably because it applies nearly as much to devo max as well , the dangers of fiscal competition.

The danger of breaking up what he called “fiscal union”, was he said, that in Scotland “you will either have to cut public expenditure enormously, beyond what is already being done, or you are going to have tax Scottish people more. Fiscal autonomy means more taxes in Scotland.”

If the union were broken up, he said, “there would be regionally varied minimum wages, and a race to the bottom, with one unit trying to undercut the other. Break up and you will have different social security rates but you will end with pensioners being treated completely differently in different parts of Britain, or unemployed or disabled people. And people will think that’s not progress, that’s moving backwards.”

Meanwhile manoeuvres between Westminster and Holyrood are intensifying over a one or two question ballot. The Telegraph reports muddled talks between the two sides, with Westminster saying in terms, we’ll start the ball rolling soon  to give Holyrood the legal powers to hold a referendum – if they agree to  the single yes, no question. This seems partly designed to flush out Salmond’s commitment to a second question on devo max and abandon his current coyness.

What’s the betting he comes out the closet on this? The battle will then truly be joined on the issue at least as crucial as the referendum date.   The problem for the pro-Union forces is that devo max – aka “fiscal autonomy” splits them. It will be harder for them to resolve this than it is for the SNP. The referendum timetable is not the big issue for Alex Salmond.

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  • veryoldgit

    “So the National Health Service is common insurance policy … shared across the United Kingdom”.

    Rubbish! There is a Scottish NHS. N.Irish NHS, Welsh NHS and an English NHS. All offer different levels of service.
    Brown and co let the devolution genie out of the bottle and the break up of the UK is now inevtiable.

  • Ruarai

    It’s only fair, when Brown’s pro-Union propaganda is provided a platform here, that the SNP response is featured too.

    From:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/aug/13/gordon-brown-olympic-success-scottish-independence

    An adviser to Alex Salmond, the first minister, said he thought Brown’s references to the economies of the West Bank, Mexico and Delaware in the US were “completely off the wall and bizarre.

    “I just think that statistics about the West Bank and Israel, and statistics about Spain and Morocco, I just don’t see what he’s going on about,” he said. “I think his case is totally weird. I don’t see why any of this has anything to do with the future of Scotland. Is he saying Morocco should join with Spain? Is he saying Delaware and Mississippi should be one state?”

  • FuturePhysicist

    Constituent Regions are only linked to the UK by:

    Common British law
    Government Reserved Powers
    Barnett subsidy

    The 3rd exists to prevent the undermining of the other two.

  • gendjinn

    Brown is wrong. Scotland is a net contributor to the UK exchequer.

    I’m sure they could charge the UK government billions to lease some submarine bases. While not needing to waste billions on a military.

  • Mick Fealty

    Nuclear bases? Are we that sure the SNP even want them on Scottish soil? And no Scottish military? I’d be very very surprised to hear that was in anyone’s plans.

  • DougtheDug

    The Telegraph reports muddled talks between the two sides, with Westminster saying in terms, we’ll start the ball rolling soon to give Holyrood the legal powers to hold a referendum – if they agree to the single yes, no question. This seems partly designed to flush out Salmond’s commitment to a second question on devo max and abandon his current coyness.

    The real reason that the unionist LibLabCon alliance want the SNP to agree to a Yes/No single question right now is to try and shut down any debate on devo-max before the Scottish Government’s analysis on its referendum consultation is published.

    If it turns out that devo-max is a popular choice then it becomes very difficult for the unionist triumvirate to explain why they are going to deny Scots that choice and the SNP can point and say that the unionists have denied the Scots a choice and it’s obvious that Westminster will never give awat any more powers to the Scottish Parliament and that the only way forward is therefore independence.

    If a single Yes/No question is agreed by the SNP before the publication of the referendum analysis the unionists dodge the bullet and it becomes the SNP who have denied Scots their second question.

    The devil is not in the detail but in getting the second question buried before the consultation is published.

  • Reader

    DougtheDug: If a single Yes/No question is agreed by the SNP before the publication of the referendum analysis the unionists dodge the bullet and it becomes the SNP who have denied Scots their second question. The devil is not in the detail but in getting the second question buried before the consultation is published.
    It seems clear that, on reflection, the SNP would like a DevoMax option on the ballot but would find it humiliating to request it themselves; having committed themselves to an independence question in their manifesto. They want someone else to do it for them, poor dears. If they can’t get the unionists to do it for them, maybe they can recruit the unions.

  • DougtheDug

    Reader:

    It seems clear that, on reflection, the SNP would like a DevoMax option on the ballot but would find it humiliating to request it themselves; having committed themselves to an independence question in their manifesto. They want someone else to do it for them, poor dears. If they can’t get the unionists to do it for them, maybe they can recruit the unions.

    An interesting failure to understand the mechanics of devo-max or the SNP.

    Whether or not the SNP would find it humiliating to put a devo-max question on the ballot paper it would be pointless excersise. For devo-max to work as a fall-back option it has to pass two hurdles. It has to win the referendum and it has to make it through Westminster to become an Act of Parliament. The unionist parties control Westminster so even if it did win the referendum ballot with no support from nationalist or unionist it would fall at the second hurdle when it failed to even make it as far as a Green Paper in Westminster. The SNP know this and the Unionist Alliance know this.

    The unionist obsession with burying the devo-max question early is starting to rival their obsession with Braveheart.

    I’m not sure what the unions have to do with a devo-max option on the referendum ballot paper because they can’t guarantee its passage through Westminster any more than the SNP can. The only way a devo-max option can go on the referendum ballot paper is if it is defined by and guaranteed support from the Labour party or the Tories or preferably both and both have rejected devo-max out of hand already.

  • BarneyT

    Surely the whole point of independence is to cut your own furrow and to suit your new countries needs becoming viable in its own right, as a consequence of being independent. Self-determination. The argument to sustain the union, whether it be here or in Britain is based on threat and negativity and scare mongering.

    An Ireland as a single entity would be much more marketable internationally, more efficient internally and could in time become viable. An independent Scotland would perhaps initially lose out but like an Irish Entity, however they would gain in the long term…and of course they’d have their own forces 🙂