Gordon Brown urges ‘middle Scotland’ to stick with UK

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Gordon Brown said: 'We'll develop all the arguments that will win that referendum' - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe
Gordon Brown said: 'We'll develop all the arguments that will win that referendum' - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe

Gordon Brown has said he is not afraid of a new independence referendum as he launched a campaign to persuade "middle Scotland" to stick with the UK.

On Monday, the former Prime Minister set out plans to transform his pro-UK Our Scottish Future think tank into a campaigning organisation to make a "patriotic, progressive, and principled" case for the union to the 40 per cent of Scots he believes hold the key to the country's future.

Following the SNP's landslide election victory, he predicted that the unionist side would prevail in any new referendum given Nicola Sturgeon's failure to address key questions about the implications of separation.

However, he warned that Boris Johnson's "muscular unionism" strategy, which involves the Government bypassing Holyrood to encroach in normally devolved areas, would backfire because most people want more co-operation between Edinburgh and London.

Mr Brown said his research showed four in 10 Scots were neither staunch nationalists or unionists. While members of this group generally felt more Scottish than British and preferred Ms Sturgeon to Mr Johnson, they did not want to be forced to choose between their identities.

He said: "You can't get to a majority on either side without middle Scotland, and therefore the union will fall or survive on the basis of what they think and do."

Mr Brown's group published research from polls conducted on election day, when 48 per cent of voters backed the SNP, which showed almost three-quarters want better co-operation between the UK and Scottish governments.

He is proposing a new forum that would hand the nations and regions of the UK more influence and believes Mr Johnson will be forced to look again at the constitutional settlement, which could mean the devolution of more powers.

Mr Brown also called on both Ms Sturgeon and the UK Government to publish legal advice on whether Holyrood has the power to organise a new independence referendum on its own.

"I'm not afraid of a referendum," he said. "I actually think that we've got all the arguments, and we'll develop all the arguments that will win that referendum.

"Nicola Sturgeon's admitted she's got no plan for it. Does anybody know what would happen to the pound on day one? Does anybody know what would happen to pensions? Does anybody know what would happen to the border? Does anybody know what would happen to trade, tax and benefits?

"You can't say we're going to postpone this until we publish something a few days or a few weeks before a referendum. If you were to have a referendum, you've got to be open and up front."

The 70-year-old, seen as playing an influential role in delivering a No vote in the 2014 referendum, said he had "no aspirations" to become the figurehead of a new pro-union campaign but was "not going to be silent". While he did not rule out a new referendum, he said he did not expect one soon.

Keith Brown, the SNP deputy leader, said Mr Brown was "the very last person anyone in Scotland should be listening to".

He added: "Ironically, Gordon Brown has launched a campaign about Scotland's future, but he is working hand in hand with Boris Johnson to try to deny the people of Scotland the democratic opportunity to choose it – despite an overwhelming mandate for an independence referendum in the election and clear majority support in the newly elected Scottish Parliament."