Gordon Brown says next year is the ‘wrong time’ for a Scottish independence referendum

Former prime minister says UK needs ‘time to heal’ as opinion polls show support for independent Scotland

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Sunday 15 November 2020 12:27
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Gordon Brown is against Scottish independence
Gordon Brown is against Scottish independence

Next year is the "wrong time" to hold another Scottish independence referendum, Gordon Brown has said.

In an intervention on Sunday the former prime minister said the UK needed "time to heal" from Covid-19 and its economic consequences before considering its constitutional future.

It comes as opinion polls for the first time show a consistent and widening lead in support of Scotland leaving the UK.

"The question at the moment is not whether you could have a referendum, it's whether you should have a referendum. We're in the middle of a virus, we're in the middle of a recession," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

"We've got huge problems, and there's got to be a time to heal before you go into any divisive and conflicting referendum that will really cause consternation in Scotland for months and months to come.

"I see the SNP leader this morning is saying there's got to be a referendum in 2021. I think most Scottish people will make up their mind that in the middle of a virus, when you've got to heal the virus, you've got to heal the recession, and you've got to look at the whole future of Britain ... I don't think this is the right time at all."

Ian Blackford, the SNP's leader at Westminster had told the Sunday National newspaper that the referendum "will take place and we need to plan that that referendum must take place in 2021".

He argued that independence would present "a way out of Boris’s Brexit Britain" and would again leave Scotland "a country that will be respectful to the law, one where we’re seeking to build a fairer country, but one where we also recognise our responsibilities".

But former prime minister Mr Brown suggested that the vote should be held in good times rather than bad times, and also said Westminster should present a reform package that centralised power sharing within the United Kingdom.

"The issue is should you have a referendum in the middle of a virus, in the middle of unemployment, in the middle of when we're having to deal with the future of the United Kingdom," he told the programme.

"I think we need a new plan for the future of the United Kingdom as well as the SNP having to explain what their policy would be in this debt laden world that we're going to be in. This is not the right time, we need a time to heal."

The latest Scottish independence poll, released by PanelBase this week, shows independence ahead with 51 per cent of the vote and remaining in the UK trailing on 40 per cent. The number of people who say they don't know is on 9 per cent. Excluding people who say they don't know, Yes would win by 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

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