Gordon Brown is launching a fresh campaign to keep Scotland in the UK in the wake of the SNP’s latest election victory.
The former Labour prime minister declared that the think tank he set up, Our Scottish Future, will become a “campaigning movement” to make the “positive, progressive and patriotic case for Scotland in Britain”.
His comments came in the wake of Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP winning a fourth term in government in Holyrood in last week’s Scottish election.
And while Sturgeon failed to win an overall majority in the Scottish parliament, with the number of SNP MSPs increasing from 63 to 64, the record eight Scottish Greens who were also elected means a majority of MSPs are in favour of Scotland having a second referendum.
Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, has already told the prime minister that the Holyrood election result means that “question of a referendum is now a matter of when – not if”.
Brown, who played a key role in the successful campaign to keep Scotland in the union back in 2014, spoke out as another veteran Labour politician warned there would now be a second vote on independence.
Former Scottish first minister, Henry McLeish, writing in The Scotsman, said: “There will be another referendum, three to five years ahead after we’ve recovered from the Covid crisis.”
Brown, meanwhile, said that Our Scottish Future would argue for a “reformed” United Kingdom, as he called for a change of tactics from the prime minister.
The former Labour leader complained that Johnson’s “muscular unionism” was “at odds with mainstream Scottish opinion”.
Brown complained that the prime minister “ends up asserting Britishness in competition with Scottishness”.
Writing in The Scotsman newspaper, Brown said: “His ‘muscular unionism’ comprises putting up more flags, labelling UK-financed bridges and roads as gifts from the UK, and generally by-passing the Scottish government as if it did not exist.
“Even though he championed it for London itself, he apparently doesn’t believe in devolution for the part of the UK that is furthest away from the centre.
“But it won’t work. When he said devolution was a disaster, he may have thought he was attacking the SNP. Instead, he ends up at odds with mainstream Scottish opinion.”
Brown said his Our Scottish Future group would target “middle Scotland” – describing this group as the 40% of Scots who were not strongly committed to either the union or independence and who would be critical if there is a second referendum.
Brown said his group would “argue for a reformed UK with a more inclusive centre, a permanent decision-making forum that brings the leaders of the nations and regions together, and for UK resources to back local policies for economic prosperity”.
But he also insisted: “If the prime minister really is to be ‘minister for the union’ rather than just ‘minister for unionists’, he needs to do more than call ad-hoc meetings with the leaders of Wales and Scotland.
“He should now institute a constitutional review, as Keir Starmer has already done, into the whole future of the United Kingdom, specifically asking it to investigate alternatives to nationalism and the status quo.
“And he should immediately call together leaders from the regions and nations, not as a one-off, but in a task-force to tackle our multiple crises. As he must now realise, he has to change if the United Kingdom is to stay together.”