Gordon Brown’s Modest Proposal for Scottish Home Rule

How’s this for weird? Gordon Brown now backs Home Rule for Scotland

Using terms like “co-decision making,” and suggesting Scotland could unilaterally sign up to international agreements on those policy areas the Edinburgh Parliament controlled, Mr Brown spoke of a more federal structure to the UK while recognising the benefits of pooling and sharing resources while part of the Union.

He also noted how even leading Nationalists had to accept in light of the Brexit vote that “independence is far more difficult in 2016 or 2017 than it was in 2014” and that, were it to happen post the UK leaving the EU, then a hard border between Scotland and England might have to be erected.

Crucially, the former PM argued that the case should now be examined for “clarifying the division of powers; stating that certain specific powers should be reserved to the UK Parliament such as on currency, defence and security and pensions and that all others are powers available to the Scottish Parliament”.

In 2014 in the final days of the independence referendum campaign, Mr Brown led the Unionist case for The Vow, pledging more powers, primarily on tax, for the Scottish Parliament. At the time, the former MP for Kirkcaldy insisted what was being proposed was “nothing less than a modern form of Scottish Home Rule”.

Divergence in UK political culture is now a real thing. So is the hole in Scotland’s public finances. Whilst the Brexit vote is not binding, either in terms of the whole UK or its parts, it would be as foolish of Westminster to ignore the internal divergence within the UK as it would the overall verdict.

Interesting because it works with the popular grain of loosening ties. Although without an imposition of internal sovereignty (ie, solid guarantees against the arbitrary power of the UK PM), it’s unclear how such an arrangement would fulfil demands for power and genuine autonomy.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Obelisk

    Ok, so he has a proposal for Scottish Home Rule now.

    History is repeating itself, with Scotland following most of Ireland’s footsteps. As then, they are attempting to mollify the population by giving them as much power as possible without actual independence.

    But the biggest Unionist objection to Home rule in Ireland was that they believed there would be no resting point between complete union and independence, that loosening the ties would simply beget more loosening of the ties till the Union snapped completely.

    Even were Brown’s scheme implemented in full how does he answer that quandry? The more power Scotland has, the easier it will be for the SNP and other Nationalists to argue that the final step to independence is less and less onerous.

    And the less power Scotland has, the easier it will be for the SNP and other Nationalists to argue that there is a democratic deficit between a liberal, pro-european Scotland being governed by a conservative, euro-sceptic England.

    Unionists never seem to realise that Nationalism isn’t a problem you can solve, as Nationalism will adapt the argument to fit the circumstances and the answer is always the same, ‘we will be better running our own affairs’. And, as I believe is now true of Scotland, that answer is never so deadly as when it happens to be true, as it is now.

  • terence patrick hewett

    More or less a re-iteration of the Constitutional Reform Group’s Draft Act of Union surely.

  • Scots Anorak

    Both Scotland and the UK currently have holes in their finances. Based on the GERS figures, Scotland appears to have a larger hole. However, GERS was specifically designed to show a Scottish deficit, and in any case an independent, or merely fiscally autonomous, Scotland would be making very different financial decisions, for example, on replacing Trident, renovating the Palace of Westminster, building HS2, etc. Most people in Scotland who continue to back the Union do so on much more general grounds, and a referendum on fiscal autonomy would still likely be passed by Scots voters. As for Gordon Brown, he is clearly reacting to current events — Brexit and the impending repeal of human rights legislation — rather than experiencing a Damascene conversion to Home Rule. Some of the functions he mentions, such as agriculture and fisheries, would be devolved anyway following Brexit in the absence of specific legislation to the contrary. Apart from that, his powder’s still pretty wet from last time, anyway.

  • terence patrick hewett

    What is clear is that there is a profound political and constitutional re-alighnment taking place. I rather think that we are all edging towards federation and that includes RoI. Everything is in such a flux nothing is impossible.

  • Obelisk

    I think we are edging towards disintegration and as it is much easier to break things that build new things, I reckon I have a greater chance of being proved correct.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Nature abhores a vacuum: something will take the place of.

  • Kevin Breslin

    A Federal Republic of Ireland … what Munster, Leinster(-Dublin), Connaught-CMD, Dublin?

    There’s no political will for that!

    I also would think it would be ridiculous sign of your own insular out of touch thinking if you think there was politcal demand for the unity of the Republic of Ireland with Great Britain in the current climate.


  • terence patrick hewett

    I had to chuckle at an article in the New Statesman:

    The Welsh Ukip surge: has Labour lost the Valleys?

    It was about Newport in welsh Wales: a town which I know extremely well, which of course is not in the valleys (which gives you a bit of a clue why Labour is on the outers). Nowhere does the writer Anoosh Chakelian actually mention the reason why ukip is taking over.

    Quelle Horreur dahling! is there such a place? Up the Orinoko with gun and rod!!!


    As to insularity: slightly unfair Kev: I was at a dinner party!!! AAhggghhh!!! in Dublin yesterday and I broached the subject and it was not cast into the wilderness but a good many ideas were thrown around. Apple pie anyone?

    I don’t, and never have, and never will be, a member of a political party – cos I don’t like ’em.

    And not being a paaartisan: I tend to detect trends that the committed do not.

    Witness Mytsic Teddie’s post pre-UK GE 01/05/15:

    “Cameron narrowly wins the May 2015 general election; he attempts to re-negotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU and makes the expected pigs-ear of it. The UK exits the EU after a referendum, triggering a Scottish exit from the UK. A constitutional crisis occurs which inspires an Anglo-Celtic Federation of independent nations, trading with the world. The challenge engages science and industry and the Federation becomes highly competitive, successful and rich and to everyone’s surprise the Republic of Ireland joins leaving Scotland isolated and shackled to the rotting corpse of the EU. Scotland applies to join but receives the reply that a referendum of all the constituent nations will have to be held. Brittany then declares UDI and applies to join their Celtic brethren in Cornouailles shortly afterwards followed by Normandie, Picardie, and the Pas de Calais. The Hundred Years War starts all over. Scotland cannot resist the temptation of wholesale arson, rapine, pillage and slaughter and is welcomed into the Federation.”


    Get yr tin hat out!!! you have been warned!!!!!!!! The vikings!!! Ernest Borgnine!!!

    “Then out spake brave Horatius,
    The Captain of the Gate:
    “To every man upon this earth
    Death cometh soon or late.
    And how can man die better
    Than facing fearful odds,
    For the ashes of his fathers,
    And the temples of his Gods.”

    Many politicals of course regard vile humanity as rather infra dignitatem. What they do not realise in their hubris is that they are just a tragic part of humanity who are cast as pathos.</i.

  • eireanne3

    which is too little, too late

  • eireanne3

    he’s going to start “Vowing” again soon!!!

  • terence patrick hewett

    Watson! the game’s afoot!

  • 1729torus

    Granting autonomy in international affairs, as Gordon Brown suggested above, would be particularly corrosive.

    Any increase in powers in foreign affairs will raise Scotland’s profile, and allow it to build connections with other states. So more countries would open consulates in Edinburgh which would give Scotland yet more profile and connections abroad. Scotland would eventually demand formal powers to conduct trade missions abroad and would end up with its own diplomatic corps, even within the UK.

    You can already see how how Scotland already has an its own foreign policy informally from Nicola visiting the EU or Salmond leading a delegation to Iran last year. Autonomy of this sort would make it much more noticeable and frequent because Scotland will be constantly interacting with other countries. This would make the country look like it’s already independent.

    Eventually some of these countries would attempt to convince Scotland that London’s tendency towards foreign adventures might not be the best idea, and the UK’s defence money is better spent on other things. Places like Russia or Argentina might invest in Scotland to influence it’s MPs in Westminster. Any of this would breed resentment in England.

  • 1729torus

    If Dublin gets its own devolved government, it would be so big that to solve the resultant “West Lothian”-style-problems, everywhere else would need it too.

    In addition, there is some political cooperation between Limerick and Cork over the M20 motorway money, this contains the potential for an increased sense of regional identity in Munster. I think this will grow going forward. When that gets going, you will see demands for a devolved government there. (Munster would be the only entity strong enough to think for itself and stand up to Dublin like that IMHO).

  • 1729torus

    Dublin dinner parties might be unrepresentative of the country as a whole.

  • 1729torus

    The centripetal forces are likely too weak.

  • 1729torus

    What if Scotland decides that defence should be a devolved matter, and it gets sick of paying for adventures abroad?

  • terence patrick hewett

    You got yr mechanics dead right!! – Mr Torus!!!

  • terence patrick hewett

    fairly rawkus: the clergy were there!

  • Kevin Breslin

    Fine scrap the Dublin Parliament. Maybe some quasi Éire Nua arrangement based on the provinces with the national capital in Athlone.