Former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown has offered his strongest warning yet of an independence-driven “hyper-austerity”.
In an interview with The Courier ahead of the unveiling of his new Scottish think tank, Mr Brown said it was time to put forward the positive, progressive case for Scotland in the UK amid fears the promotion of Boris Johnson to Tory leader and Prime Minister next week could spell the end for the union.
He said the “us versus them” mentality being put before the Scottish people by the SNP and the Conservatives was leaving them between two “extremes”, neither of which were good for the country.
Mr Brown was due to unveil his new think tank – Our Scottish Future – on Thursday. He said it would set out the progressive argument for Scotland “taking pride of place” in the UK, rather than being “told its place”.
And he accused the SNP of taking its most “extreme” nationalist stance yet, after the party decided to ditch keeping the pound at its spring conference.
He said such a move would guarantee a hard border between Scotland and England, and result in the immediate loss of thousands of jobs.
Mr Brown said: “We need to put forward the positive case for being patriotic Scots without having to break-up the union.
“The SNP has shifted to a more extreme position, after deciding at their last conference they would ditch the pound.
“This is a completely different position to what was offered at the last referendum.
“People will come to realise this would be extremely expensive and massively restrictive. It would result in the creation of a hard border between England and Scotland and result in the loss of thousands of jobs.
“We need to show we are patriots, not nationalists and people will start to see there is a difference between the two extremes of anti-European conservatism and extreme nationalism.
“Neither of these will help us deliver a better future for Scotland.”
Mr Brown said people had to bear in mind the difference in the amount of trade between Scotland and England and Scotland and the EU amounted to billions of pounds.
“If people see there is a self-harm in leaving the EU, they should see it would be worse (if we leave) the UK,” he said.
“We need to point out the positives of Scotland in the union, it’s not ‘us versus them’.
“We need to put the case forward on what Scotland’s future can be. We need to show the Scottish parliament can work for the whole of Scotland and how Scotland can have pride of place in the UK, not told its place.”
Asked if he feared Boris Johnson could be the last prime minister of the UK, Mr Brown said yes, adding: “Boris is seen by people in Scotland as anti-devolution and anti Scottish and at the same time the SNP is continuing in an extreme position. We need to put on what it would mean economically to have a Scottish pound.”
Mr Brown insisted Our Scottish Future was not a break-away party from Labour, or the beginnings of a new one in Scotland.
He added: “I want to put forward the progressive case for Scotland in the union which has not been put forward by the Scottish Conservatives, who just move to block referendums rather than point out the positive case for the United Kingdom.
“The ‘us versus them’ mentality kills reciprocity and undermines solidarity. The progressive case needs to be heard.”