Tag Archives: Gordon Brown


A couple of days ago, the Labour ex-Prime Minster Gordon Brown, now an ordinary MP at Westminster, made an unexpected and widely-publicised entry into the IndyRef campaign. He claimed that he would get The Speaker of the House of Commons to set in motion a process that would produce a “cast-iron” timetable for a devomax solution starting on 19 September and finishing by 25 January 2015, which just happens to be Burn’s Night (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/05/gordon-brown-scottish-independence-devolution).

This was widely welcomed by the Better Together campaign in the belief that it would get some people to refrain from voting Yes.

There are number of important misunderstandings conflated here. Firstly, Cameron himself appears to have rejected a proposal by First Minister Alex Salmond to have a devomax alternative on the ballot paper (http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/david-cameron-missed-chance-save-7727958). The ballot paper states without any doubt that this is about Yes for Independence or No for the status quo. Repeat – No is not a vote for more devolution. However Better Together understood early on that they would get nowhere with a genuine No campaign so its various factions have been talking about “devomax” – each political party offering a different version – which actually contravenes the rules set out in the Edinburgh Agreement of 2012.

Brown was hoping that his standing within the Labour party and his Scottish antecedents (he is MP for Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath) would give his proposal the necessary political clout although it was only a timetable, not actual powers. None the less Westminster politicians rallied round the idea with enthusiasm. But Yesterday William Hague, who was standing in for Cameron during Prime Ministers Question time, said:

Fast tracking further devolution for Scotland was not Government policy”.

This statement is absolutely consistent with the Edinburgh Agreement.

Gordon Brown had also overlooked a constitutional requirement that any bill put before the House of Commons has to be ratified by the House of Lords before it becomes legal. That body issued a report in 2012 which stated specifically that

Proper constitutional process requires that negotiations involving all parts of the United Kingdom precede any referendum on an agreed scheme of “devolution max.”

So not only would any devomax solution have to pass the House of Lords but it would also have to be negotiated with all parts of the United Kingdom (http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/uk-to-get-veto-on-gordon-browns-devo-proposals).

How such negotiations would be done is a purely academic question. DevoMax hasn’t died, it was stillborn from the start – another Dead Parrot on the Better together campaign trail.

One wonders why the Yes Scotland campaign hasn’t given more publicity to the funeral.


The most recent TNS poll confirms the YouGov poll result that “Yes” and “No” are now neck-and-neck, the 1-2% differences between the polls being statistically insignificant. Both sides are stepping up their grass-roots activities as the polls leave no room for complacency from either side.

The “Yes” camp seem to be carrying on “business as usual” while the supporters of “No” have been proposing uncoordinated last-minute counter-attacks. Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown last night made public a “plan” to get new Devomax measures passed by Westminster, starting on 19th September immediately after a “No” vote (http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/09/brown-takes-charge-cameron-backs-his-plan-scottish-home-rule). According to The Huffington Post, he said:

“On September 19 we will start bringing into law the new, stronger Scottish Parliament, and to secure the change we want we will work with the other parties. The Scottish people will expect nothing less, not only because that is the right thing to do, but because we need an agreed timetable with deadlines for delivery and a roadmap to our goal.”

 While Brown himself is emerging as the one leader who just might be able to deliver such a promise, his plan contains only proposals for a timetable but no substance on political measures. Voters will rightly ask themselves, if this is so important and such a good idea, why does he propose it with only 9 days to go to the vote? It will take more than just references to St. Andrews Day and Burns Night to convince the electorate that this is a genuine delivery of Devomax.

Right-wing MPs are now trying to drag the Royal family into the campaign. No matter what her private views may be, Royal aides and independent constitutional experts deny that the Queen would depart from her role of public political neutrality, (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scottish-independence/11083204/Scottish-independence-The-Queen-is-urged-to-intervene.html), a view also expressed by Alistair Darling.

The public announcement that the Duchess of Cambridge in England is pregnant again has also been touted as a straw to save the Union, which shows the desperation of some Better Together supporters (http://www.theweek.co.uk/uk-news/royal-baby/60317/royal-baby-the-perfect-plot-to-foil-scottish-independence). Alex Salmond’s twitter congratulations to the Dutchess of Strathearn, as Kate Middleton is known in Scotland, was scarcely better. Taking a broader view, there is no doubt that Her Majesty would be welcomed by most Scots as their Monarch but clearly her reign must be drawing to a close. The popularity of her successor could be an entirely different matter.