Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Gordon Brown attacks currency union tactics

Gordon Brown Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Brown said the currency union issue had been turned into one of "Scotland versus Britain"

The UK government's handling of the currency union row in the Scottish independence debate has been criticised by Gordon Brown.

The former prime minister and chancellor said people in Scotland were bound to feel "bullied" by the message that "Britain says No".

But he also predicted Scotland would be more unequal under independence.

The SNP said Mr Brown's comments underlined the "divisions" within the pro-Union campaign.

Mr Brown, the MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath made his comments during an interview with the Daily Record newspaper.

The newspaper quoted Mr Brown as saying: "The way the currency argument was put by the government made the issue Scotland versus Britain.

"Patriotic Scots need a better reason for supporting what I think is a positive statement and belief - that we can have a strong Scottish Parliament and still be part of the United Kingdom.

"But if the only propaganda that comes from the Conservatives is 'Britain says No', it's bound to have a reaction in Scotland.

"It is bound to make people feel that people are talking down to us or are not taking us seriously or are trying to bully us."

In February, Chancellor George Osborne appeared to rule out the prospect of the Scottish government's favoured option of a formal currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK.

His position was later backed by Lib Dem Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander and shadow chancellor Ed Balls.

At the time, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond accused the Westminster politicians of "bluff, bluster and bullying", and predicted the move would "backfire spectacularly".

Mr Salmond also argued that the pro-Union politicians would change their position in the event of a "Yes" vote in the referendum, which will be held on 18 September.

Mr Brown said his own priority was to see a more socially just and equal society, as he criticised SNP policies such as a cut in corporation tax.

He said he had concluded that "Scotland would probably be more unequal under an independent SNP government than it is now".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Scottish government believes the pro-Union parties will change their stance on a formal currency union if there is a "Yes" vote in the independence referendum

The former prime minister was speaking ahead of the launch of the United With Labour campaign, which has been billed as the party's attempt to show it has "a vision of Scotland's future that is wholly different from the SNP and totally different from the Conservatives".

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said Mr Brown's criticism of the currency union rejection underlined the "divisions and disarray within the No campaign".

He added: "In attacking Westminster's bluff and bluster over the pound, he is directing his fire at Ed Balls as well as George Osborne - given the way Labour parroted the empty threats of a Tory Chancellor.

"The reality is that the pound belongs to Scotland every bit as much as the rest of the UK, and independence will give full tax and welfare powers to Scotland while sharing sterling with our friends and neighbours south of the border.

"With the publication of the Tories' Strathclyde Commission, all parties now claim to believe in greater powers for Scotland within a shared currency - and only a Yes vote secures all the powers that we need to make the wealth of Scotland work for all the people who live here."

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