Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has revealed a detailed timetable for delivering the Scottish Parliament new powers if voters reject independence in next week’s referendum.
The Scottish MP called a ‘No’ vote the “starting gun” of a new Scotland Act which would give Holyrood greater control over issues including finance, welfare, and taxation.
The announcement came after a shock YouGov poll indicated that the Yes campaign was ahead for the first time – sparking accusations that the pro-union Better Together campaign was unveiling proposals to lure in voters at the last minute. The poll showed that 51 per cent of potential voters supported Scotland leaving the UK, compared with 49 per cent who said they wanted to remain united.
The Better Together has denied the claims and dismissed accusations that a promise to outline the handover of more powers is little more than a “bribe”.
Mr Brown added that Labour was "taking the initiative" by putting forward the timetable, adding that Labour has long been the part of home rule for Scotland.
The timetable will be laid out by the former leader in a speech at the Loanhead Miners Welfare and Social Club in Midlothian on Monday night. Mr Brown said that work on the proposed legislation would begin a day after Scottish voters cast their ballots on 19 September.
He said the alternative to “irreversible separation” is a more powerful Scottish Parliament with a timetable for its delivery.
The MP envisions a “command paper” will be published by the Westminster Government setting out all the proposals for change no later than the end of October. Following consultation on a white paper, draft clauses for legislation could be expected by January.
“A No vote on September 18 will not be an end point but the starting gun for action on September 19, when straight away we will kick off a plan to deliver the enhanced devolution that we want," he explained.
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said the timetable will the people of Scotland “certainty” that a “new plan for devolution will start the day after a No vote in the referendum.”
"While the nationalists ask us to take a leap of faith on currency, pensions and funding of our NHS, Scottish Labour will use the strength of the United Kingdom to make Scotland stronger," he added.
A Downing Street source said of the timetable: "We very much welcome this intervention by Gordon Brown.
"This is exactly the sort of thing which the Scottish parties have been discussing in recent weeks."
The source said that each of the three main UK parties had been working on proposals for possible extensions to devolution over several months, and the fact that their plans overlap to a substantial degree was reflected in last month's joint declaration by David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. Mr Cameron is likely to make his response to Mr Brown's initiative later in the week.
Responding to Mr Brown's intervention at the TUC congress in Liverpool this evening, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "If we win the general election, we will move with utmost speed in our first Queen's Speech to enact this legislation.
"It is Scottish Labour who have drawn up a timetable and a plan for a new Scotland Act. A Labour government will deliver it."
Responding to Mr Brown's initiative, a senior Liberal Democrat source said: "We welcome it."
However, speaking on behalf of the Yes Scotland campaign, former Scottish Labour Party chairman and Labour for Independence campaigner Bob Thomson said Mr Brown's proposals "smacked of desperation".
"This smacks of utter panic and desperation by the No campaign as they lose their lead in the polls.
"Gordon Brown is in no position to offer anything - he is a backbench MP, and the Tories are in power at Westminster," he added.
"The people of Scotland will not trust the Tories to deliver powers that in any event fall far short of what we need. The sure fire way to achieve the full range of powers Scotland needs to build a fairer society and more prosperous economy is to vote Yes a week on Thursday," he argued.
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