20 Sep 2014

Gordon Brown’s vision for a Scottish utopia

His impassioned speeches towards the end of Scotland’s referendum campaigning have been credited with securing a victory for no now Gordon Brown has set out his vision for Scotland. So what is it?

Mr Brown’s post-referendum speech, delivered to his constituents in Dalgety Bay, Dunfermline, created a vision for Scotland of social volunteers and debates at book festivals.

Pulling together

Tug of War

His speech followed the hard-fought win for the Better Together campaign, which has led to Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond announcing his resignation and violence flaring in Glasgow overnight.

But the former prime minister said that now is a time for unity. Quoting from the Bible, he said: “There is a time to kill and a time to heal. I would put it in modern language, there is a time to fight and a time to unite, and from today onwards this is the time to unite.”

He said much from the last few weeks was “distasteful”, but that now as the time to “leave the battlefield”.

Mr Brown also said that there was much that united voters on both sides – especially a desire to free millions in the country from poverty and depravation.

Social change

The key theme in Mr Brown’s speech was social change. He said problems in education and the health service, in transport and in jobs could be addressed by a united Scotland.

He said the energy from the campaigns should be transferred to fighting poverty – a “collective assault on all aspects of poverty”, and added that the independence the yes campaign wanted was independence from “depravation for millions of people and from the inequalities they face.”

Creating a society of “Serve Scotland” to replace “Yes Scotland” and “No Scotland” was key he said – people involving themselves in “community and national service”.

Mr Brown also called for dialogue to create a vision to eradicate poverty and he wants politicians to be held to account as they take such action.

More jobs, better jobs


Summoning memories of ship-building (pictured above) and textile industries in Scotland, Mr Brown said jobs need to be addressed in Scotland.

Blaming globalisation, Mr Brown said the country that had “once had the biggest share of manufacturing and mining jobs in our workforce now has one of the smallest, even smaller than Northern Ireland.”

He called for the Scottish and UK governments to work together to create more and better employment opportunities, and said a taskforce should be set up with this goal in mind.

Channel 4 News correspondent Ciaran Jenkins reports from Gordon Brown's speech...

Gordon Brown spoke for an hour. He spoke unscripted. "I'm not returning to frontline politics," he said, before delivering a speech which has already upstaged day one of the Labour conference hundreds of miles south in Manchester.

The audience couldn't have been kinder. Loyal footsoldiers of the no campaign in the heart of his Fife constituency. They lapped up Mr Brown's anecdotes about his friendship with Neslon Mandela, his phone calls immediately after the no vote with Bill Clinton and Koffi Annan.

This was a speech with a twin purpose. Firstly, to call on Scotland to "come together" in the wake of a passionate, divisive, sometimes angry campaign. Mr Brown implored yes and no supporters to put down their placards and to "unite" for the sake of Scotland. "The past is the past," he said.

Outside, a small group of Yes voters stood undeterred and held their posters proudly aloft. How confident are they the promised powers will be delivered? "Absolutely no confidence whatsoever," was the reply.

And so to Mr Brown's second purpose. The eleventh hour pledge he and the three pro-union party leaders had made would be honoured, he said. It's already been laid in parliament. The timetable set in stone.

But a timetable for what exactly? Deadlines have been set to deliver powers, the nature of which have not yet been agreed by the political parties. Pressed by journalists afterwards, Mr Brown was evasive. That, he said was a matter for others.

I asked one final question: the West Lothian question. David Cameron could not have made it clearer that barring Scottish MPs voting on issues which affect only England is firmly on his agenda. And in tandem with any new settlement for Scotland.

Again, Mr Brown refused to be drawn. He is determined only to champion the timetable he has brokered. A timetable for change which has not been defined.

Places to argue

Yes No arguing

From 16-year-olds to first-time voters in their 60s, Mr Brown heralded the “amazing” turnout in the referendum as a sign that people want to be a part of something “bigger than ourselves, a desire to be the change we believe in”.

Scots like to argue, Mr Brown said, and like to do it in public.

However, he said the Scottish institutions that supported debate – from the church to trade unions, had been in decline. He said debate needs to take place away from “crude political debate”.

He held out book festivals, of which there are more than 40 in Scotland every year, as places where discourse can take place – in a place between the individual and the state.

Organisation online and in the physical need to be created for such debate, Mr Brown.

Friends to the south

English and Scottish

The English are not foreigners, but neighbours, Mr Brown argued.

“All the evidence is that we are prepared to help each other, to share with each other, to come to the aid of each other, to recognise the differences in each other, to tolerate at what at times may seem like excesses and eccentricity among the other,” he said.

He drew on examples of the NHS, of how each year 1,000 Scottish patients receive English blood donations, 100 receive English organs and thousands travel south for medical treatment in English hospital.

We should pool our resources for the common good, he argued.

He will not be leading Scotland (not from the frontline anyway)

In the wake of Mr Salmond’s resignation announcement, some may have been wondering about Mr Brown’s political ambitions following his successes in the referendum.

However, the former British PM said he had no plans of returning to the frontline of British politics.

“I’m too old to be the comeback kid by the way, and I’m too young to be an elder statesmen as well,” he said.