Scotland politics

Scottish referendum: Gordon Brown vows 'powers will be delivered'

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Media captionGordon Brown: "Time for Scotland to unite"

Gordon Brown has said promises made by the "No" parties ahead of the Scottish independence referendum on change and further devolution will be delivered.

The former prime minister said it was time to move from the "battleground to the common ground" after a majority in Scotland voted "No" to leaving the UK.

He added: "We will lock in today the promises that we have made."

The SNP said a pledge to present a motion on more powers to Parliament on Friday had already been broken.

Politicians in England and Scotland are considering how the UK will be governed in the future.

In a speech in Dalgety Bay, Fife, Mr Brown described three "lock-ins" which he said demonstrated that pre-referendum promises would be kept:

  • a resolution has been signed by David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Mr Brown committing to a timetable of action including draft legislation for a new Scotland Bill by the end of January. The motion will be placed in the House of Commons on Monday.
  • civil servants were already at work drawing up a timetable and detailed plans so that a "command paper" setting out new powers can be published by the end of October.
  • a House of Commons debate to be held on Thursday 16 October to ensure the plans are on track.

Following Thursday's result, which saw 55% of of voters rejecting independence against 45% in favour, there has already been significant disagreement over the timing and extent of further devolution.

Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to deliver on the pre-referendum promises made by the three main Westminster parties to boost the powers of Scotland's devolved parliament.

He has tasked Lord Smith of Kelvin, who led Glasgow's staging of the Commonwealth Games, with overseeing the process of taking their commitments forward, with new powers over tax, spending and welfare to be agreed by November, and draft legislation published by January.

Mr Cameron has also proposed a system where only MPs from England would vote on English issues in Parliament.

Robin Brant

Political correspondent, BBC News

Ed Miliband doesn't want to talk about the fall out from the Scottish referendum result as he arrives in Manchester, because it has put him in a tricky position.

As Scotland prepares for new powers to be devolved from Westminster, the rest of the UK waits to see if/when it will benefit from similar measures.

The Labour leader wants that wait to be a long one. His calculation is based on a) a sincere view that the scale of constitutional change requires a lot of thought; b) he wants "citizens" involved in a "bottom up" process; c) David Cameron's big idea of English-only MPs voting on English laws could severely hamper a Labour government.

There is no doubt the prime minister has made a play for tactical advantage over Labour. He too may believe, sincerely, that giving English MPs an exclusive say over laws that apply only to the UK's largest nation is the right and proper thing to do.

But he also saw the speed with which Nigel Farage was demanding equal treatment for England. Speaking up for England is likely worth votes. As the general election approaches he hasn't forgotten about the threat from UKIP, with its double-digit showing in the opinion polls.

Some Labour figures have warned against creating "two classes of MP".

In Manchester, delegates have been gathering for Labour's UK conference as the party forms its response to the "No" vote fallout.

The party leader, Ed Miliband, has made it clear that he is not likely to sign up to Mr Cameron's proposals on how parliament handles English issues.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Ed Miliband is due in Manchester for the start of his party's annual conference

Mr Miliband favours a nationwide constitutional convention to come up with ideas, convening next autumn.

Speaking to activists ahead of the conference in Manchester, the Labour leader indicated that he was moving on from the alliance forged between the three Westminster parties in the Scottish referendum campaign.

He said: "The last few months have been about keeping our country together. The next eight months are about how we change our country together.

"And we know that yearning for change is there right across our country. Constitutional change matters, but we know that something else matters even more: this country doesn't work for most working people and we, the Labour Party, are going to change it."

Setting out his priorities, he said: "This conference is about all of those families treading water, unable to benefit from the recovery. This conference is about all of those young people who worry about their future.

"And this conference is about our National Health Service sliding backwards under this government."

Further powers: Monday's parliamentary motion

That this House...

  • welcomes the result of the Scottish independence referendum and the decision of the people of Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom;
  • recognises that people across Scotland voted‎ for a Union based on the pooling and sharing of resources and for the‎ continuation of devolution inside the United Kingdom;
  • notes the statement by the prime minister, deputy prime minister and leader of the opposition regarding the guarantee of and timetable for further devolution to Scotland;
  • calls on the government to lay before Parliament a Command Paper including the proposals of all three UK political parties by 30th October and to consult widely with the Scottish people, civic Scotland and the Scottish Parliament on these proposals;
  • further calls on the government to publish heads of agreement by the end of November and draft clauses for the new Scotland Bill by the end of January 2015.

Speaking to an audience of No campaigners in Fife, Gordon Brown described himself as a "promise keeper" and said the leaders of the three main UK parties were "promise makers" and would not be "promise breakers".

He also moved to quash any suggestions that he planned to return to frontline politics. He said he was "too old to be the comeback kid" and "too young to be an elder statesman".

Mr Brown said the eyes of the world had been on Scotland over the past week and he called for unity.

He said: "There is a time to fight but there is a time to unite. This is the time for Scotland to unite.

"I am sure we can find ways to unify against the odds. "

He added: "Let us think of ourselves not as Yes Scots or No Scots - but let us think of ourselves, all of us, simply as Scots and united let us be a nation again."

Consequences of the 'No' vote

SNP MSP David Torrance said the promises that the former prime minister was making made it easy to forget "that Gordon Brown is just a backbench politician."

He added: "Better Together told the Scottish electorate that a motion would be presented to parliament on Friday the 19th September on giving more powers to Scotland - a promise which has already been broken.

"And we know David Cameron hasn't agreed to a second reading on the issue in Westminster before Easter, as also promised by Mr Brown.

"The reality for Scotland is that our timetable for more devolution is now defined by Westminster, and not ourselves. Gordon Brown's reputation is in tartan tatters."

New members

Meanwhile the SNP faces a change of leadership after First Minister Alex Salmond announced he is to stand down as SNP leader at the party's conference in November, before quitting as first minister when the party elects its next leader in a membership ballot.

The 59-year-old is Scotland's longest-serving first minister, having held the post since the SNP won power at the Scottish Parliament in May 2007.

He has also served as leader of the SNP for a total of 20 years.

He will stay on as MSP for Aberdeenshire East, and described serving Scotland as first minister as the "privilege of my life".

Image copyright PA
Image caption First Minister Alex Salmond has returned to his constituency home in Strichen, Aberdeenshire

On Saturday morning, Rupert Murdoch tweeted: "Alex Salmond's sudden resignation makes him most honest politician in Britain. Actually he seems to have changed country's future."

The media mogul followed it up with another tweet about the promise of more powers.

He wrote: "Cameron's promise of devolution, now for all parts of country, without consulting cabinet, clever politics, but divisions in all parties."

The party said it had recruited more than 5,000 new members since the referendum, which it described as "incredibly encouraging".

SNP business convener Derek Mackay said: "Some will no doubt be coming from Labour - whose traditional heartlands were voting 'Yes' on Thursday - but many will be new to politics, and they will continue the legacy of the referendum, and the amazing level of engagement we saw."

The Scottish Greens, who also campaigned in favour of independence, said more than 2,000 new members had signed up since the referendum result.

Patrick Harvie, the party's co-convener, said: "This spectacular increase in our membership shows that the hope and inspiration of the 'Yes' campaign will not be fading away."

A former treasurer of the SNP, Ian Blackford, has called for the nationalists to wield their negotiating power in the wake of the independence referendum and campaign for a form of Home Rule.

He said: "I think what we've got to do over the course of the next few months is say to Westminster, 'Look, there is a real desire for change in Scotland'."

Elsewhere, 11 people have been arrested after rival Unionists and independence supporters clashed in Glasgow's George Square on Friday.