Gordon Brown’s vision for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament has come under fire from a fellow Labour MP.
In the latest bout of infighting over the possibility of moving more responsibility north in the event of a No vote, Dunfermline and West Fife representative Thomas Docherty attacked a speech made by the former prime minister at the weekend.
During the address in his Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy constituency on Saturday, Mr Brown urged Scots to stay within the UK but said Holyrood should be given more powers.
He included “maximum devolution of powers in training, transport, health, the Crown Estates Commission and the running of elections” in his wish list.
Mr Docherty told The Courier: “I don’t believe there is any support at Westminster for Scotland unilaterally getting further devolution without changes to current constitutional and financial arrangements.
“The choice in September is between separation and the settled system of devolution.
“I have not had one constituent come to me and say the solution to Scotland’s problems is to rip up the current arrangements.”
The internal rupture between neighbouring MPs comes as Labour’s devolution commission, set up to consider possible further powers, draws up a report to lay out the party’s recommendations.
It is expected to be unveiled at the Scottish Labour conference in Perth in March and will certainly report in time for the independence referendum on September 18 when voters will be asked: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
On Saturday, Mr Brown used a speech in Lochgelly to set out his vision for remaining in the union.
He said: “I am of the view that the party that first created a powerful Scottish Parliament is best placed to strengthen devolution and to create a stronger Scottish Parliament in a stronger UK.
“We can show how with our reforms, to be implemented by Labour administrations in Westminster and in Edinburgh, we can address some of the greatest social and economic challenges a future Scotland faces.”
In an attack on the SNP, Mr Brown said: “First, they calculate oil and gas revenues as at least £6.8bn in 2016-2017 when all formal and independent forecasts suggest the correct figure is likely to be around £3.5bn, leaving a £3.3bn shortfall. To make this up requires a rise in income tax of 10p.
“Second, they have failed to calculate the cost of European Union membership without the British rebate, which Scotland would not benefit from.
“In consequence, Scotland’s net membership costs could be as high as £500m that the SNP have not budgeted for.
“Scotland may even have to contribute to the remaining UK rebate like all other member states.
“Third, while the SNP have a working party on the ‘affordability’ of pensions, Scotland receives proportionately more spending on pensioners than the rest of the UK and more in incapacity benefit.”
Picture by David Wardle