Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the idea of a unitary British state is “dead and buried” as he criticized the campaign against Scottish independence for playing into the hands of nationalists.
Brown, speaking to journalists in London yesterday, said David Cameron’s government has focused too much on negatives and has been “patronizing” to Scots, creating a Scotland versus Britain argument. He also said “it would be good” if Cameron debated with Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond, something he has declined to do.
“There will be home rule for Scotland in the U.K. as a minimum,” said Brown, 63, a Scot who led the U.K. from 2007 until his Labour Party lost the 2010 election. “We are as close to federalism as we can get. Britain cannot be Britain without Scotland being part of the U.K.”
Scotland holds a referendum on independence on Sept. 18, with some polls in recent months showing people warming to breaking away from the U.K. though outnumbered by those preferring the status quo.
Brown, who still represents an area north of Edinburgh in the U.K. Parliament at Westminster, said that Scotland’s quarrel was with globalization rather than England. He emphasized the need to present the idea of an increasingly autonomous Scotland as part of the future of Britain.
Fish & Chips
He singled out a report by the Treasury and Scotland Office published online last week that advised Scots they could buy more fish and chips if they remained part of the union as the sort of thing “that ought to be withdrawn immediately.”
“If you allow it to be Scotland versus Britain then it’s a losing ticket,” Brown said at the event yesterday. “If we put the right argument forward there is no doubt that Scottish people want to be part of the U.K.”
Brown also said that increased autonomy in Scotland will have repercussions in Wales and Northern Ireland.
“People will not accept the current constitutional arrangements,” he said. “Scotland is changing Britain for good. Dead and buried is the idea of a unitary state now.”
Cameron’s spokesman, Jean-Christophe Gray, said yesterday the U.K. leader maintains his view that Salmond should debate with Alistair Darling, the former chancellor of the exchequer under Brown who leads the pro-union “Better Together” campaign.