Just when we were wondering where Gordon Brown had got to? He has barely been seen at Westminster to represent his constituents since his party lost the last general election. He has been on a very lucrative round of after dinner speaking around the world instead.
Up he pops at the Edinburgh Book festival to give a talk on the question of Independence.
Here is what he had to say, with my comments in BOLD
“It is no criticism of the discussion so far to say that, in the next two years as we approach a referendum, the debate about Scotland’s future must rise to a new level.”
It would actually help if we were allowed to have any reasonable level of debate…But unfortunately the Unionist parties(including Labour) are doing their damndest to keep it from happening!
The future of Scotland – and the fate and fortune of the Scottish people – is too serious – and the jobs of too many people, the livelihoods of too many families, the prospects for too many young people too important – for the arguments of the next two years to be anything other than substantive.
Which would be why we have the likes of Davidson insisting that Westminster must run the show, irrespective what the Scottish people have mandated in the Scottish Government elections, and why him and his Conservative pals on Westminster’s Scottish select committee are wrangling over the small print?
Indeed if we are to avoid the kind of destabilising decade that hit Quebec and its prospects of economic success, and avoid perpetual demands for a succession of referenda, we must take care to construct our constitutional arrangements on the strongest and most enduring foundation.
And so I would suggest that, if we are to do justice to the seriousness of the issues at stake, the debate must start from first principles; be rooted in what really matters to us as Scots; focus on the future not the past; seek to understand how after a half century that has seen not only the loss of empire, and the creation of the European Union but a shift of the centre of economic gravity towards Asia and the birth of a far more interdependent world, notions of nationhood and sovereignty are in flux not just in Britain but almost everywhere; and ask whether in a more interdependent world where barriers are being dismantled everywhere, what new barriers, if any, make sense.”
Right….so are you seriously suggesting Gordon, that all these Independent Countries have given up on their own Identity?
Notions of nationhood and sovereignty are every bit as strong as they ever were. Canadians view themselves as Canadian with their their own sense of self Identity, and woe betide anyone telling them that just because they trade with their neighbours in the USA that they are American! The world has been interdependent on trade since mankind learned to barter, but that interdependency does not mean these countries negate their sovereignty!
Perhaps you had best look to the new chap who has your old job….did he not walk out of talks with the EU last year in a hissy fit, creating more division from our neighbours in Europe in the process?
THE MODERN CASE FOR THE UNION BASED ON THE STRONGEST OF FOUNDATIONS
Of course the British Union was forged and grew when Scotland and England had shared religious objectives, when they sought to share the benefits of empire, and when they had shared interests in European wars.
Incorrect!! The British Union was forged and created on the back of Blackmail, threats of Invasion, and Bribery. The Scottish people actually took to the streets in civil unrest! Scotland had no desire to take part in England wars! In fact England conspired with Spain to prevent Scotland successfully creating its own successful Trading Company and Outposts.
Now that religion, empire and war in Europe are not any longer the decisive forces, some have argued that the ties that bind us are so frayed that the Union no longer has a purpose. But in fact the real issue is not what the old case for the union was – and how much of it endures – but whether there is a modern case for the Union.
A UNION WHICH SCOTTISH VALUES HAVE HELPED SHAPE
We can of course found the modern case for Britain on the success of shared institutions, on kith and kin because of intermarriage, on our interdependence, on common security and defence needs and on shared economic and environmental challenges.
Can we really?
The so called shared institutions get their orders from where?
Scots Law, and Education, and NHS are entirely independent of England and Wales. Scots have kith and Kin all over the world, not just with our neighbours in England, intermarriage with just about every other nationality. Polish, Indian, Italian, Spanish, German, French, Japanese, American etc. Are you suggesting we unite with all of them, and do away with Countries and nationalities? Not a bad idea actually,but I suspect not what is intended by your comments.
We can still come to arrangements for common security and defence needs without the Union, and the state of the British economy suggests we would be much better looking after our own!
Scotland is currently leading the world on environmental challenges,and that includes the rest of the UK! In fact, the British Government had been much more of hindrance than a help.
Stopping Scottish efforts for Carbon capture, and insisting as you did yourself when prime minister that Nuclear was the way to go, and only the efforts of the Scottish Government prevented you from subjecting more Nuclear Power stations on us!
But I want to start the debate on Scotland’s future from where Scottish people are, from our distinctive Scottish beliefs and how these shape the Union we know today.
And I want to suggest that what we brought to the Union – Scottish ideas of justice and community – when, side by side with traditional English ideas of ordered liberty and individualism, created a British political social and economic settlement which is unique to multinational arrangements anywhere in the world.
I know you have been absent from Westminster for quite a while Mr Brown, but surely you have noticed that the mess your lot left us with has been compounded in Conservative hands?
Your lot created the Supreme Court, which was made to overule our Scots Law, and has already interfered with our High Judiciary, while the English Judiciary is not obligated to quite the same arrangements. So much for Scottish Justice.
But that aside…Scots do not have the copyrite on justice and community, everyone else in this world have their own versions of them. Although, we Scots do play good store by both of them.
The English were not the only ones to have ideas of ordered liberty, and Scots have been far more Individualistic than them as a matter of course and necessity down the years.
Part of the problem which we face now, is down to British political settlements….Unless you haven’t noticed, the SNP, The Scottish Greens, The Scottish Socialists all have a radically differing view on justice,community,and nation than your British Labour, Conservative and Liberal democrats do!
Since the British Lib Dems sold out for their mondeos and cabinet seats, they have become part of a political triumvirate with Labour and the Conservatives which follow nearly identical policies and support each other. They all have their Scottish sub branches, but these are only there to follow their masters wishes!
Scottish values have, of course, traditionally been best expressed as what is often called ‘the democratic intellect’ – the belief that human dignity is achieved not just by educational opportunity open to all but by a culture open not just to an elite but to everyone, and by the cultivation not just of manners but of our critical faculties by looking at things from first principles.
Have you looked at how the Higher Education Fees your lot introduced, have been enhanced by the Coalition? Reducing the ability of the poorest in society south of the border to better educate themselves, and creating a new breeding ground for the elite classes under the Conservative administration.
While the Scottish Government has been under sustained attack to fall in line, from the British establishment , for following these principles you mouth and play lip service to, but never did anything about?
It is all very well spouting forth about principles, but your principles are worth nothing without implementation, which you singularly refused to do!
And there is a second distinctively Scottish idea which became prominent in the Scots enlightenment – the idea of civil society, of a community where we have mutual obligations to each other and where there is a moral core to the public realm.
I would suggest that these distinctive Scottish values which have emphasised justice and community have been vital not only in shaping Scottish society but in shaping the British Union.
They may have shaped Scottish society, but they have been increasingly absent in the British Union which you and your pals have benefited from!
BRITISH CITIZENSHIP UNIQUE BECAUSE IT IS BASED ON COMMON POLITICAL SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RIGHTS BETWEEN NATIONS
For as a result of our interaction with English ideas beliefs, we have established for every citizen of Great Britain not just common political rights but common social and economic rights, something neither the United States of America nor the European Union have fully achieved.
Indeed irrespective of whether you are Scottish, Welsh or English or Northern Irish you will have the same basic insurance against unemployment disability and old age.
Because we have established common economic rights as well as social rights, one part of the UK will in the event of an economic or social disaster have the right to help from the other parts and indeed when the Scottish banks failed the whole of Britain did not question the need to help.
What makes you think Mr Brown, that an Independent Scotland wouldn’t have at least an equal level of rights for unemployment, disability,and old age, to what there is now?
In fact, given the very points you yourself made earlier about Scots sense of community, justice and fairness, I would suggest that not only will these rights be equal, they will in some case be better than the Union provides.
A case in point is what the Scottish Government has already achieved under a British handicap. We have better care for elderly in care homes, free prescriptions, education free for all. All which is looked at enviously from citizens south of the border, because their government refuses to provide these things.
The British Government have been attacking the rights of the disabled, we wont allow that in an Independent Scotland. They are forcing those with terminal illness such as cancer, to look for work if they have a prognosis of more than 6 months to live.
The British state has one of the worst levels of elderly pensions and benefits in Western Europe. We can do much more than that!
And as for that old chestnut about Scottish Banks? You are being disingenuous and you know it Mr Brown!
The Scottish Banks have brought far more wealth into the British economy down the decades and centuries than they ever lost, and the City of London and Westminster have raked most of it in!
You didn’t bail them out! In fact your government and its mismanagement were primarily responsible for a great deal of the mess, through your light touch regulation!
You even went as far as doing dodgy dealing with Lloyds over the Bank of Scotland.
These banks although registered in Scotland were already International banks, and their losses were covered all over the world where there debts were due. Not purely by the British Government. In fact, very little of the debt was actually due to be covered in Britain. America paid out more!
No British Government money was paid out,the British Government merely acted as guarantors in the UK.
The Bank of Scotland was already taken over by Halifax,and its was Halifax mortgage business which got them into trouble.
The Royal Bank of Scotland was tied in with NatWest and Ulster Bank.
MODERN UNION FOUNDED ON THE POOLING AND SHARING OF RISKS AND RESOURCES
And because of the distinctive ideas that have shaped it, the Union pools and shares risks and resources right across Britain. Pooling and sharing our resources – through a national insurance and taxation system – has made possible a National Health Service where, while we have distinctive forms of local management, the risks of expensive health care are pooled and shared across the UK.
The Scottish NHS is entirely independent of the NHS in England and Wales, surely you know this??
We can point also to the BBC with a common license fee and the armed forces where we are clearly better protected because we pool our expertise and resources -and this week, of all weeks, we can point to all our Scottish Olympic medals – where it is clear from the views of the athletes themselves that a British team (pooling and sharing resources and expertise) was the best platform upon which Scotland’s (and every nation’s and region’s) success was built.
The Scots licence fee contribution to the BBC far exceeds the service Scotland gets from the BBC, In fact, if anything, they are scaling back still further, and we are not well served.
Scotland would be much better off without a nuclear timebomb on our doorsteps in the Holy Loch. And we could sure do a hell of a lot more with the trillions spent on it,and in maintaining it!
We don’t want it…we have consistently said we dont want it, but does the British Government listen? Does the Labour party listen? The Conservatives certainly dont! and neither do the Lib Dems.
The current government has stripped our air bases, our regiments,they are making our armed forces unemployed as they scale back from Afghanistan, after so many needless British and Scottish lives lost….for what??
Your Pal Blair lied straight in our faces over Iraq,,and you said what exactly?
Scotland did very well in the Olympics, but who is to say they might not have done even better representing a full compliment of Scottish athletes rather than the 10% we supplied?
A quarter of the Gold Medals were Scots. Some of them admittedly with others from the UK, but they may have doen even better if allowed to compete with other Scots. Murray and the lassie Robson won silver, but what would Murray with the Scottish British ladies number one, Elena Baltacha have achieved? Gold?
They never allowed Hoy to defend his sprint title…another Gold?
So your argument doesn’t add up Gordon!
BRITAIN IS A UNIQUE AND MORE PROGRESSIVE UNION WHEN CONTRASTED TO EUROPEAN UNION OR THE U.S.A.
In other multinational states like the European Union, these common social and economic rights – and this pooling and sharing of resources – does not exist to the same degree.
So, as the tables show, inequalities between nations in Europe are so deep that the typical citizen of the richest state Luxembourg has six times the income of the poorest, Bulgaria. And the reason for the difference with Britain is that we have created a social market while Europe still has little more than a single market. And then in Asia, as the tables also show, the gulf between nations on the same continent is so glaring that the richest country has income levels per citizen more than thirty eight times that of the poorest.
Even in the USA, as the enclosed table shows, a federal state which is made up of regions not nations, inequalities are greater with the typical citizen of the richest state earning more than twice the income of their neighbour in the poorest.
I mention all these federal and multinational states to show the uniqueness of what has been achieved in Britain. Inequalities between Scotland and England have narrowed to the point that the typical Scottish citizen has an income of over 20,000 a year just like the English citizen and Scottish GDP per head is 96 per cent of English GDP per head.
And even when we look at states which border each other like Mexico and the USA, Singapore and Malaysia, and Spain and Morocco there is no natural tendency to converge.
Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland stand out as countries that have done more than anyone to minimise the differences in average income per head. We have a long way to go if we are to reduce inequalities within each nation but we have gone a long way in minimising inequalities between each nation within the British Union.
We have done so in a progressive way by establishing minimum legal rights of citizenship; then common and equal social rights of citizenship; then common and equal economic rights of citizenship; and from the pooling and sharing of risks and resources.
Ok Gordon….Explain why after 13years of Labour Government and a couple of years of the Coalition The gap between rich and poor has grown faster in Britain than in any other developed country!!
The top 1% taking 14% of the wealth!
An Increase in the divide between Rich and Poor by 40% since 1980, and climbing faster all the time now!
Is this really your idea of a fair society, with Britain having one of the most unequal societies in the western world? Only America tops us on that score.
Progressive?? My Arse!!
‘SOCIAL UNION’ WOULD BE A CASUALTY OF THE ECONOMIC BREAK UP OF BRITAIN
I suggest that if through some version of independence we break this apart and set nationally or regionally varied minimum pay rates, nationally varied corporation tax rates and nationally varied social security rates we will start a race to the bottom under which the good provider in one area would be undercut by the bad and the bad would be undercut by the worst.
Because the whole purpose of the break up would be to end the pooling and sharing of resources and legislate for different social and economic rights, the equal rights of citizenship we have built from values we hold in common would come to an end. If we mean by ‘social union’ shared social rights of citizenship, there could be no ‘social union’ after an economic break-up.
You think not Gordon? How will you or anyone else stop it?
We can compete, much like Germany and France, or Spain and Portugal, or Canada and America compete, but still manage to get on.
As Ireland and the UK have competed since the Irish Republic, and the Irish prime minister has said recently that relations with Britain are better than they have ever been!! Explain that!
Could it possibly be that an Independent Scotland would actually force the rest of the UK to step up its game? Where the English population would be so sick of not receiving the benefits and social justice for all, available in Scotland, that they would really start kicking up a stink with their government!
Is that really what the English ruling classes fear?
A fairer distribution of wealth and a more just society?
BRITAIN COULD YET BE A BEACON FOR HOW TO EVOLVE IN A MORE INTERDEPENDENT WORLD
So we find that modern Britain is founded on something more important than old sentiment, self interest, temporary advantage, or short-lived tides of emotion – but on shared values – and that these values have not only shaped the Britain we know but can shape the multinational arrangements of the future.
Indeed Britain may yet become a beacon for all those nations across every continent who need to find a way of living together in a multinational world where, more and more, people of different ethnic backgrounds will have to find ways of co-existing side by side.
I don’t see it happening in England. Not without real change!
an Independent Scotland on the other hand, has always been more inclusive, more willing to work with others from across the world, and Scotland is well valued for it. You can see these old ties started to develop again already. The World wants the progressive Scots amongst them once more,and they have been showing real interest in the Independence referendum already. They like the idea, and Scotland will like it better too, when we can take our place amongst the world in our own right once more. Its been 300 years too long!
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