The United Kingdom is on “life support”, Gordon Brown has warned as he said that the Conservatives‘ decision to play the “English card” could unravel the three centuries old Union.The former prime minister attacked the Tories for “starting to write off Scotland” and said Westminster and Holyrood’s insistence on “vetoes” over legislation could prove fatal.Mr Brown urged opposition parties to push ahead with a constitutional convention to try and piece together the UK after it came within a few hundred thousand votes of breaking up last year.
And in some of his first comments about the election, he admitted that the “battered forces of progressive opinion urgently need to regroup and find common purpose”.It comes after a phenomenal SNP surge won the party 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats at the election, leaving Labour with just a single seat north of the border.Writing for the Guardian, Mr Brown said the support for the Scottish Nationalists should not be misunderstood as a boost in backing for independence, explaining the result as a desire by Scottish voters to be “represented as Scots”.
However the former Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath MP, who stood down at the election, warned the future of the Union still hangs in the balance. “If the United Kingdom collapses, it will not be because a majority of Scots are hell-bent on leaving but because the UK government is giving up on saving it,” Mr Brown wrote. “No union can survive without unionists and, after an election in which, to head off Ukip, the Conservative and Unionist party presented itself as the English Nationalist party, it is clear that the union is on life support.”
He criticised David Cameron’s push to give English MPs a “veto” over English-only laws and the SNP’s push to give Scotland a similar “double lock” on the EU referendum. It comes after the Prime Minister pledged to settle the West Lothian Question – why Scottish MPs can vote on laws that only affect the English – the morning after Scotland voted to stay in the UK. “In a tit – for-tat retaliation to the SNP playing the Scottish card, the Conservatives are playing the English card,” Mr Brown said.
He added: “Sadly, this tactic – to divide and rule and put party before country rather than to unite – is one that the Conservatives can return to again and again.” “It reveals a bigger truth: that while Scotland has not yet written off Britain, the Conservatives are starting to write off Scotland.” The Conservatives have repeatedly rejected his analysis, with William Hague saying his proposal on English votes for English laws would strengthen the Union rather than undermine it.
Proposals to create a Commons committee of English MPs that would approve all English-only legislation before its final vote are expected to be put before parliament within weeks. Number 10 rebuffed Mr Brown’s criticism by denying the Prime Minister’s drive to give English MPs a veto on English-only laws would destabilise the Union. “The proposals we have been looking at carefully balance the principle of English consent for English measures with MPs still continuing to deliberate and vote together,” said the Prime Minister’s official spokesman.
“I think this is about reflecting that for different parts of the United Kingdom there is devolution being taken forward and respecting [the needs of] all parts of the UK in that”, The Telegraph reports.