01 June 2023

Independence minister demands Brown say sorry after Vow promises ‘not kept’

01 June 2023

Former prime minister Gordon Brown has come under fire for promises made to Scots ahead of the 2014 referendum, with the Scottish Government’s independence minister insisting these commitments were “not kept”.

Jamie Hepburn hit out at the former Labour leader, saying he should apologise to people as “jobs have been lost and living standards have been harmed” as a result of that.

Ahead of the historic vote in September 2014, Mr Brown was instrumental in drawing up what became known as the Vow – a commitment that Scotland would have federal-like powers if people rejected independence and instead opted to stay in the UK.

However Mr Hepburn said that the former prime minister had “made promises that would have made even snake-oil salesmen blush”.

In contrast to what Gordon Brown promised, the reality is that we are about as far from a federal state as you can get

The independence minister insisted that Mr Brown “could not have been clearer that if people in Scotland voted against independence, in his own words, that ‘we’re going to be, within a year or two, as close to a federal state as you can be’.”

With Mr Brown due to speak at a rally in Edinburgh on Thursday evening, Mr Hepburn challenged him over the delivery of that.

The SNP MSP said since the independence vote in 2014, Scotland had been “dragged out of the EU against our will” and had seen the powers of the Scottish Parliament come “under attack like never before”.

Mr Hepburn said: “The Sewel Convention which was supposed to prevent Westminster over-riding the Scottish Parliament is now routinely being breached.

“Laws passed in explicitly devolved areas are struck down at the stroke of the Scottish Secretary’s pen. And the Foreign Secretary is sending out threatening letters to overseas embassies trying to restrict Scottish ministers’ efforts to secure jobs and investment for Scotland.”

Mr Hepburn continued: “In contrast to what Gordon Brown promised, the reality is that we are about as far from a federal state as you can get – and nothing that pro-Brexit Labour are proposing in their anaemic devolution proposals will make any difference.

“Jobs have been lost and living standards have been harmed because promises that Gordon Brown made were not kept, and before he takes to the stage he needs to apologise.”

Mr Brown has already said he will be speaking about the “fight for change we can believe in” at Thursday’s event, which will also be addressed by Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and West Yorkshire mayor Tracy Brabin.

The former prime minister added the research for his Our Scottish Future think tank showed that “Scotland’s problem is with Whitehall, Westminster and a London-centric system”.

But he stressed that many other parts of the UK “also feel detached from a centralised state”.

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