Politics ‘reset’ needed, Brown says

Published: Saturday 29th November 2014 by The News Editor

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Former prime minister Gordon Brown will today “reset” Scottish politics in a bid to shift the focus from the constitutional debate to how to improve the lives of ordinary people.

Independence has dominated politics north of the border for the last two years ahead of September’s historic referendum.

Mr Brown played a pivotal role in the campaign to keep Scotland in the UK and was also a key player in the pledge by the Westminster parties to deliver more powers for Holyrood.

With the Smith Commission, which was set up immediately after the referendum, now having recommended the Scottish Parliament be given new powers over income tax and some welfare payments, Mr Brown will today say: “It is time to move beyond two years of constant talk of constitutional change to a new focus in the next two years on the social and economic change that Scottish people have said they want.

“I am pressing the reset button because it is time to move beyond the old issue of bigger powers for the Scottish Parliament, as we now have more powers than at any time, to the issue that really concerns Scotland – better lives for the Scottish people.”

The Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP is to address the annual meeting of Scottish Labour councillors in Glasgow this morning.

He will use his speech to argue that having a strong Scottish Parliament while continuing to enjoy the benefits of sharing resources across the UK could lead to five improvements for Scots – ending youth unemployment, improving the NHS, enhancing pensions for the elderly, attacking poverty and inequality and expanding the 1.4 million Scottish jobs that are linked to trade with the rest of the world.

The remarks are his first since the Smith Commission, which was established by the UK Government, unveiled its proposals on Thursday.

Mr Brown will say when these are implemented that Holyrood will have “more powers over spending than most federal or devolved regimes – from the US and Germany to Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands – and more powers over tax than most of them too”.

He will state: “I t is time to reset politics beyond the old issues of constitutional change – what powers the Scottish Parliament does not have, who can shout loudest against London and what grievances and gripes can be stirred up against the UK with claims of being powerless.

“These issues have dominated in recent years. It is time to focus on what Scottish people see as the real issues – using the powers we have for the economic and social change that can make Scottish lives better, fairer, greener and more prosperous.

“I am resetting Scottish politics today, for with the combined resources of Scotland and the UK we are showing we can take action in five key areas.

“Our manifesto will be the only one of all major parties to stand for the principle of a Scottish Parliament that is enhanced by the benefits for Scotland of stepping up our sharing across the UK.

“Our manifesto will differ from the SNP. We will concentrate NOT on what the Scottish Parliament cannot do but focus on what we can do, both from Westminster and Holyrood working together, to improve Scottish lives – for example the job prospects of young people, giving them a choice to stay in Scotland.

“Our manifesto will differ from the Tories and Liberals. While they want to downgrade sharing across the UK and seem to have come to the view that in the UK it is ‘every nation for itself’, we will show how Scottish lives are enhanced by sharing the cost of pensions, job creation and healthcare across the UK.

“We will show the best deal for Scottish families is combining the resources of the Scottish Parliament with a UK Labour government pledging to tackle unfairness, inequality poverty and social injustice.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “The SNP took part in the Smith Commission in good faith – and we will always welcome new powers for Scotland. We have made crystal clear that we will use these powers to govern in the best interests of the Scottish people.

“But the Westminster parties have now gone as far as they ever will on further powers – and there is no escaping the fact that the Smith Commission proposals do not live up to the expectations of the people – or of civic Scotland.”

He added: “Given the Smith Commission proposals fall far short of the ‘modern form of Scottish Home Rule’ promised by Gordon Brown, it’s no surprise he now wants people to stop talking about further powers for the Scottish Parliament.

“It is, however, deeply ironic that four out of the five pledges in Mr Brown’s manifesto plan focus on employment and pensions – areas in which it is proposed for power to remain reserved to Westminster.

“In their submissions to the Smith Commission, 65 organisations called for welfare devolution a number of organisations called for devolution of the minimum wage and many called for powers over equality legislation. None of these powers have been forthcoming.

“Many respected organisations are feeling that an opportunity to tackle poverty and inequality in Scotland has been missed this week.

“Next May the people of Scotland have the opportunity to make their voice heard on the powers Scotland needs to build a fairer, more prosperous country. We look forward to their verdict.”

Published: Saturday 29th November 2014 by The News Editor

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