Gordon Brown: Scotland is trapped between nationalism and Conservatism – let Labour show a third way

18th March, 2017 10:13 am

This is an extract of a speech Gordon Brown will deliver today at the festival of ideas in Kirkcaldy on a third way for Scotland. 

“With these proposed new powers let us send a message today – and I will fight for this in the weeks and months ahead – that from now on the debate on the future of Scotland will no longer be limited to two options.

“The third option, a patriotic Scottish way and free from the absolutism of the SNP and the do-nothing-ism of the Tories is now essential because post- Brexit realities makes the status quo redundant and require us to break with the past.

“The status quo has been overtaken by events, because unless powers, now with the European Union, are repatriated from Brussels to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the regions, Whitewall will have perpetrated one of the biggest power grabs by further centralising power.

“The separatist option has been overtaken by Brexit events, because under the SNP’s proposals, Scotland would not just be outside the fiscal union facing a huge deficit but outside the British single market on which one million jobs and £50billion worth of exports depend. The SNP have not been honest about the change since 2014 to a more hardline policy, abandoning the British single market in which Scotland does 65 per cent of its trade.

“The very extremism of conservatism and nationalism make the case for the third option – a patriotic Scottish way.

“And a new Scottish patriotic way is possible because of Kezia Dugdale‘s decision that Scottish Labour embrace a federal approach to Scotland’s future in the UK Union.

“The third option means that Scotland is not trapped between the conservatism that would leave Scotland in Britain but not in Europe and the nationalism that would leave Scotland in Europe but not in Britain. Instead the third option would give Scotland the benefits of being in Britain while positively seeking and securing the closest possible ties with Europe.

“More importantly the patriotic way means that Scotland is not ensnared between the post-Brexit conservatism that concentrates more power at Westminster and a post-Brexit nationalism that denies us the gains from the British single market worth £50billion in export trade.

“And the patriotic way means that Scotland is not caught between a diehard conservatism that denies the Scottish Parliament the powers it needs and a hard-line nationalism that throws away the resources we secure from being part of the Union.

“Tory and nationalist extremism should not rob us of a third option that can give the Scottish people more powers, offer honest answers about how we can pay for our public services and, faced with the post-Brexit threat to our employment and industry, address the urgent issue of how we create new jobs by exporting and trading successfully with Europe and the rest of the world.

“Most of all, a new third option can unify our country and end the bitter and divisive Yes v 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 hard-line nationalism.

“So exactly how would the third option work? A Scottish patriotic way is best for agriculture and fisheries where we will have powers to act and resources to do so. Currently the Tories would deny us the powers that should come from Brussels to Edinburgh. The SNP’s plan for fiscal autonomy – losing £9billion a year – would deny us the resources.

“Shipbuilding – which employs 6,500 people – will be better off than if we opt for separation, which will put British orders at risk, or a Tory status quo which prevents the Scottish Parliament giving support to the industry. The Tories will deny us the powers . Nationalists will deny us the resources – and the orders.

“A Scottish patriotic way is best for North Sea Oil where we would have the powers to enter into public-private partnerships with resources to do so. Abandoning the Barnett formula, the SNP would not have the resources to do so and the Conservatives would deny us the powers in Scotland to help. And, under our proposals, the UK would continue to support decommissioning.

“The third option is also best for financial services. Financial services – which employ 100,000 directly and another 100,000 indirectly – will benefit more from a new Scottish way than from a separatism that would – by taking us out of the UK single market -put our sales of insurance and pensions to England at risk.

“The third option is best for public services, including the NHS we care about, giving us the powers and resources to act. The Tories still deny us some of the powers we need. The SNP would lose the Barnett gains and deny us resources. The federal option gives us powers and keeps the resources.

“It is also best for our anti-poverty programme giving us the powers to act and the resources to do so. The Tories would deny us some of the key powers we need and the nationalists do not have the resources post-independence to cut poverty. Unlike Labour, the Tories and SNP have shown no desire to tackle inequality but under our proposals we can.

“And on defence and security,a third option is best because it allows us to support our defence industries and we still have UK resources to do so.

“So the Conservatives would deny the Scottish Parliament the post Brexit powers it should have, while the SNP would prevent the Scottish Parliament having the resources it needs.

“Our new Scottish patriotic way combines the powers we need with the resources we require.

“And our options offers more power to the people .

“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. They just disagree on which state. Theresa May clings to ancient views, unsuited to the 21st Century, of the undiluted sovereignty of the UK Parliament. When it comes to the UK Nicola Sturgeon clings to a 19th century all-or-nothing view of nationalism, that her state must have every power and cannot even share decision making with the rest of the UK even when, such as on pensions, it is in its interests to do so.

“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. I propose another way forward – making our own decisions where it matters and supporting co-decision making within the UK where it can help Scotland.

Not the nationalist way, not the conservative way but a patriotic Scottish way, that is simply the best way of reforming the union for the 21st century.”

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