Gordon Brown says Scotland devolution promises will be kept
Former UK prime minister also praises Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond and calls on yes and no camps to unite.
Gordon Brown has vowed to keep Westminster’s main party leaders to a tight timetable for devolving further powers to Edinburgh after Scottish voters rejected independence in Thursday’s referendum.
The former UK prime minister, who remains a Labour MP, said a resolution for a new Scotland Act signed by David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and himself after the vote would be placed in the House of Commons on Monday.
“We have set down a timetable that is absolutely clear. That a command paper will be published by the end of October, that the heads of agreement between the parties and further devolution will come in November and that the draft legislation, the laws that will form the Scotland bill and eventually the Scotland Act, will be ready by the end of January,” he said.
“If you like, by St Andrew’s Day [30 November] the heads of agreement, and by Burns Day [25 January] the laws that we will then enact for the future of the country.”
In a passionate speech at Dunfermline, Fife, on Saturday, Brown said the promises on further devolution made by the three party leaders in the days before the referendum as Westminster panicked about the prospect of a yes vote would be honoured.
“The eyes of the world have been upon us and now I think the eyes of the world are on the leaders of the major parties of the United Kingdom. These are men who have been promise makers and they will not be promise breakers,” he said.
“I will ensure that as a promise keeper these promises that have been made will be upheld.”
A House of Commons debate called by Brown to ensure proper scrutiny of the proposed timetable would take place after MPs return to Westminster on 16 October.
The proposed devolved powers would ensure no poll tax, bedroom tax or railway privatisation could be forced on Scotland and would allow the Scottish parliament to protect the NHS, he said.
The former Labour leader – whose late intervention in the referendum campaign has been credited with helping to secure the no vote – also called on Scots to unite after the divisive referendum campaign.
“Let us think of ourselves not as yes and no Scots but simply as Scots and let us be a nation, united again,” Brown said. “I am sure we can find ways to unify against the odds … let us seek to find high ground in trying to find a way forward for the future.”
He also paid tribute to Alex Salmond, who will step down as first minister and leader of the Scottish National party in November. He thanked him for his years of service and said the people of Scotland owed him a debt of gratitude.
Ending his speech, Brown said he had set out concrete ways in which people in Scotland and the rest of the UK could unite.
“We should value the more positive relationships with England that the debate of the last few days outside Scotland has made possible and that would reflect our increased self-confidence as a nation. And we should consider how we can build what we pioneered – networks and relationships as part of a stronger civic society, free of partisan politics, where we are free to disagree but not to be disagreeable.”
SNP MSP David Torrance said: “Better Together told the Scottish electorate that a motion would be presented to parliament on Friday 19 September on giving more powers to Scotland – a promise which has already been broken.
“And we know David Cameron hasn’t agreed to a second reading on the issue in Westminster before Easter, as also promised by Mr Brown.
“The reality for Scotland is that our timetable for more devolution is now defined by Westminster, and not ourselves. Gordon Brown’s reputation is in tartan tatters.”
The Scottish Parliamentary Journalists Association said on Saturday it would hold an emergency meeting this weekend after Salmond prevented some of its members from attending Friday’s press conference at which the first minister announced his resignation.
Ben Riley-Smith, the Daily Telegraph’s Scottish political correspondent, and Christopher Hope, the paper’s senior political correspondent, were stopped from attending the briefing at Bute House in Edinburgh – the first minister’s official residence – by a member of Salmond’s press team.
Reporters from the Daily Mail and Daily Express were also not invited, while the Guardian did not send a representative after attempts were made to determine which journalist would attend.
Salmond’s press aide initially told Riley-Smith and Hope that there was no space for them, before saying it was not his decision whether to allow the reporters to attend.
Asked why the first minister’s team was banning journalists from a public building, the aide told the Telegraph: “It is not a public building; it is a private residence.”
Journalists from Scottish papers the Herald, Daily Record and the Courier were allowed in, along with representatives from the Times, the Sun, the BBC, BBC2’s Newsnight, Channel Four News and STV.