POLITICS

Gordon Brown To The Rescue As He Sets Out His Plans For The Future Of Scotland

20/09/2014 09:58 BST | Updated 20/09/2014 11:59 BST

Gordon Brownhas set out proposals for a united Scotland after the historic referendum returned a No result and pledged that the promises made on further devolution would be delivered.

As political wrangling in Westminster continued over his successor's plans for sweeping constitutional reform across the United Kingdom, Brown said: "There is a time to fight but there is a time to unite and this is the time for Scotland to unite and see if it can find common purpose and move from the battle ground to the common ground and let us seek to find high ground in trying to find a way forward for the future."

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Gordon Brown has set out his ideas for the future of Scotland

The former prime minister, whose intervention in the referendum campaign has been credited with helping to secure a No vote, added: "I am sure we can find ways to unify against the odds.

"Today I want to set out proposals that might be discussed across the country that might unite this country around a set of common causes we can all endorse, Yes and No campaigners.

"The eyes of the world have been upon us and now I think the eyes of the world are on the leaders of the major parties of the United Kingdom. These are men who have been promise makers and they will not be promise breakers.

"I will ensure that as a promise keeper that these promises that have been made will be upheld.

"We will lock in today the promises that have been made and why the timetable we set out will be delivered. Action has already been taken to make sure that happens."

The Labour-dominated lacklustre Better Together campaign has been widely condemned in the wake of the result, with one shadow minister telling The Huffington Post UK that "Scottish Labour is fucked."

Despite the referendum being held in Labour's Scottish heartland - where party founder Keir Hardie was born, where three of the last four Labour leaders were born, and where the Opposition currently holds 41 of the 59 parliamentary seats - there was little sign that the party had a clear grip on it message or its policies.

"They've proved they can't organise a piss-up in a brewery," a shadow minister told Huff Post UK. "You wait till 10 days before [the vote] to call in Gordon Brown and show some passion".

But the biggest victim of the referendum battle was Alex Salmond, who announced he would quit as First Minister and Scottish National Party leader although he insisted the dream of independence "shall never die".

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First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond Friday morning

Today, as Brown pleads for unity in Fife, the Better Together alliance between David Cameron and Labour leader Ed Miliband appears to have shattered over the way the UK is governed in future.

The under fire PM said the 55% to 45% referendum decision for Scotland to remain in the UK should put an end to the independence debate "for a generation".

He vowed that promises made by the three main Westminster parties to devolve more powers to Holyrood would be "honoured in full", with draft legislation in January.

But speaking on the steps of Downing Street, he made clear that they would go hand in hand with a "balanced" new constitutional settlement covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In particular, he said there would have to be reform at Westminster to address the thorny issue of "English votes for English laws", suggesting Scottish MPs would no longer be able to vote on exclusively English issues.

Labour - whose chances of obtaining a Commons majority are likely to depend on Scottish votes - reacted warily to the plan, and Miliband said the referendum victory for the pro-union camp should not be used "for narrow party political advantage".

Miliband insisted he remained committed to the devolution of powers to Scotland along the timetable set out by Brown and backed by Labour, the Tories and Liberal Democrats.

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Miliband during the campaign

But he said there should be a constitutional convention to examine the wider changes needed to reform the way the UK is governed, something that would not happen until the autumn of 2015 - after the general election.

In a passionate speech, Brown said today: "Immediately after the referendum, in discussions with the leaders of the parties, lock-in measure one was taken, a resolution that is issued today, was submitted, that will be placed in the House of Commons on Monday.

"And that resolution is signed by all three leaders of the main political parties, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition.

"And I have signed that resolution as well, the four of us. We have set down a timetable that is absolutely clear.

"That a command paper will be published by the end of October, that the heads of agreement between the parties and further devolution will come in November and that the draft legislation, the laws that will form the Scotland Bill and eventually the Scotland Act, will be ready by the end of January.

"If you like, by St Andrew's Day the heads of agreement, and by Burns Day the laws that we will then enact for the future of the country."

Restive Tory backbenchers have indicated that they will force Cameron to ensure that any devolution of further powers to Scotland is accompanied by change in England.

Prominent Conservatives lined up to argue for a settlement "for the whole of the UK" that would see England granted similar powers to those pledged to north of the border in the run-up to the vote.

There was also widespread criticism of the "rash promises" made in the late stages of the campaign with no mandate from the UK Parliament, particularly the commitment to honour the Barnett Formula, under which the Scots are allocated more money per head than the English.

As the prime minister faces the difficult prospect of fulfilling promises he vowed in the lead up to the referendum in a desperate bid to appease Scottish voters disillusioned by the British Government, Ukip Leader Nigel Farage accused him of ignoring England to mollify the Scots.

After realising that public sentiment in Scotland was shifting toward a "yes" vote on independence, the government in Westminster quickly backed a series of measures that would give Scotland more control over finance, welfare and taxation - almost all matters apart from defence and foreign affairs.

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Already disgruntled by what some of them viewed as Cameron's apathetic handling of the referendum campaign, a number of Conservative MPs were dismayed by his decision to join Clegg and Miliband in a last-minute promise of "extensive new powers" for Scotland in the event of a No vote.

But Farage said Cameron and Miliband were "so lackluster" in the early part of the referendum campaign that they "panicked and made a series of promises on behalf of the English - one, to devolve more powers, but secondly they made a promise to maintain the Barnett Formula whereby the UK taxpayer spends £1,600 more on every Scot than on every English person.

"Throughout this whole devolution period [England] really have been the poor relation, we've been ignored."

Cameron may be relieved that he didn't "manage to lose the union," Farage said, but he is in a "real panic over the English question."

London Mayor Boris Johnson was among the voices calling for English devolution, saying "what's sauce for the goose has got to be sauce for the gander".

The Government's former top lawyer warned that it would be impossible to produce fully considered policies by January.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve told BBC2's Newsnight: "I think we can certainly sketch out, by January, ideas.

"But the idea that we are going to conduct the sort of exercise which, in my judgement is going to be needed if we are going to take this forward and actually get a widespread acceptance across the United Kingdom, I don't think that's possible."