In a speech in Glasgow today (TUE), former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for faster change, fairer change, safer change and better change if Scotland votes No in the referendum.
He also accused the SNP of misleading people over the future of the NHS.
In a speech entitled ‘Patriotic vision for Scotland’s future’, Mr Brown said:
“I have always argued that this referendum is not a choice between Scotland and Britain but a choice between two distinctive visions of Scotland’s future, a patriotic vision and a nationalist vision, both of which are visions held by Scots here in Scotland with two different views about how our country can progress.
The nationalist vision would break all links with the UK. Indeed they argue it is better for Scotland to break the links that ensure UK-wide rights to the funding of our pensions, NHS, welfare state and our defence and security.
Ours is the patriotic vision:
Which starts from our strong sense of being Scottish;
Is strongly Scottish in our support of our own Scottish institutions;
Is strongly Scottish in the pride we have in the Scottish Parliament we created;
Is strongly Scottish in our desire to ensure it has more powers;
And is strongly Scottish too in the pride we have in the benefits from cooperating and sharing across the whole of the UK for pensions, the funding of healthcare, jobs, the currency and interest rates.
Yesterday I showed that we could deliver the extra powers we seek for the Scottish Parliament within a timetable that starts on September 19th and leads to the publication of draft laws in January, after a period of consultation with the Scottish people and the Scottish Parliament.
Let me be clear that all pro-devolution parties in Westminster and Holyrood have agreed with our timetable for more powers for the Scottish Parliament.
I can also say something that we have pushed for yesterday and have agreed today that when Parliament returns in the week of 14 October there will be a motion in the House of Commons which will vote on a process to bind everyone.
By the end of October, just over five weeks after the referendum, there will be a command paper that sets out all the plans.
By the end of November, there will be a Heads of Agreement on a new Scotland Act published in a White Paper or its equivalent, following consultation with Scottish civic society and the Scottish Parliament.
And there will be draft clauses ready for legislative enactment by the end of January 2015.
So I can say today that we can guarantee that a No vote on September 18th means legislative action for more powers which will start on September 19th.
I want to explain today how this changes the whole nature of the debate about Scotland’s future and in particular I want to concentrate on what this means for the NHS.
Until now some people have thought the referendum choice is between separation and the status quo.
Between irreversible action to sever Scotland’s links with Britain and doing nothing at all.
But it is clear with our plan for new powers for the Scottish Parliament that the choice is not now between no change and separation, but between change with a stronger Scottish Parliament and change with an irreversible break from the UK.
As part of my thirty day tour of towns, cities and villages in Scotland, I will show on Thursday when I address a rally of pensioners what our new powers for the Scottish Parliament means for services for the elderly, and the SNP have got it wrong on pensions.
In Kirkcaldy on Saturday I will also show what our new proposals mean for jobs and how the SNP have got it wrong on jobs and the economy.
And when I speak to members of the Royal British Legion on Sunday, I will show what our proposals mean for defence and security.
But today I will show what our proposals mean for the NHS in Scotland and the guarantees that we can give.
Faster change, fairer change, safer change and better change
No one now should be in any doubt that Labour’s initiative, led by Ed Miliband and Johann Lamont, means faster change, fairer change, safer change and better change than that sought by the nationalists, and it is change that I believe the vast majority of Scots can support and change that can bring Scotland together.
Our plan for a stronger Scottish Parliament offer faster change, because the pro-devolution parties will deliver a stronger Scottish Parliament with determination and speed, and will in fact do so quicker than the SNP could ever secure independence.
A stronger Scottish Parliament offers fairer change than separation, because as I will show we will continue to pool and share our resources with our friends, neighbours and family in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. And by sharing across the 63 million people of the UK rather than just 5 million people in Scotland, we can guarantee UK-wide rights to a pension, assistance when unemployed, fully funded healthcare free at the point of need and minimum standards of protection at work, including a UK-wide minimum wage.
Our stronger Scottish Parliament offers safer change, as further powers will be delivered without the chaos and instability of the SNP’s uncertainty on the currency, threat to default on Scotland’s share of the debt and inability to explain how they would cope with a £6 billion public spending hole when we lose the Barnett formula and the UK welfare state.
And further devolution rather than separation offers better change, as we will have a stronger Scottish Parliament but will also continue to benefit from being part of the UK when it comes to defence and security, the economy and the currency – without losing a say in vital decisions that affect us.
These proposals offer change that I believe is more in tune with the wishes of the Scottish people – who want stronger powers for the Scottish Parliament to enable us to make decisions on our own, but who do not want a no-going-back break with the United Kingdom.
In desperation, the SNP are claiming that an English Prime Minister can force a Scottish First Minister to privatise or cut the budget of the NHS.
But they are completely wrong.
Under the existing powers of the Scottish Parliament, they have the power to raise an extra £1 billion in taxes to help pay for the NHS in Scotland.
Under the 2012 Scotland Act, the Scottish Government from 2016 will have the power to raise even more tax revenue.
If the Scottish Government raised income tax by 3p it would raise £1.2 billion. That would mean an extra £410 million for the NHS.
If they raised it by 4p, they would get an extra £1.7 billion. That would represent an additional £580 million for the NHS.
If income tax went up by 5p, Scotland would have an extra £2.1 billion. That would be worth £720 million to the NHS.
And after the proposals which nail the lie today – that MSPs cannot allocate more resources to the NHS if they wanted to and have no freedom to do so – that figure could be even higher.
Let’s look at what would really happen.
First, the Scottish NHS cannot be privatised from Westminster because under devolution, the NHS in Scotland is run by the Scottish Government in Edinburgh.
Second, last year, nearly £12 billion was allocated for health in Scotland. Recently an extra £284.6 million has been added to our block grant for 2014/15 as a result of ‘Barnett consequentials’, which the SNP have committed to the health budget.
This is the reason why health spending in Scotland is currently higher than the UK average by around 9 per cent. Scotland would receive £11 billion – £1 billion less – if spending to health was allocated according by population share, but we currently receive £12 billion because of our historic needs.
Let me tell you. I love Scotland and I love the NHS. I have relied on it all my life. It has always been there for me in times of need. And not just for me but for my family too, and for your family and for everyone in the country.
I tell you, we created the NHS, we built-up the NHS, we fought the world to deliver it.
We’re proud of the NHS and will never let it be anything other than safe for the people of Scotland.
The SNP are misleading people when they know perfectly well Scotland can spend more on the NHS if it wants too.
It shows their real aim is not to help patients of the NHS but simply to win their support for their dogma of independence.
They are putting the needs and aspirations of people in Scotland second to their aim of separation.
With the powers we have and without separation, we can guarantee forever the future of the NHS in Scotland.
As a universal service free at the point of need, which is what Scottish people want.
Five positive benefits to Scotland of being part of the UK
Let us be in no doubt that the referendum is now a choice about whether on five vital areas of cooperation that matter to people in Scotland – the positive benefits from UK pensions, the UK funding of healthcare, UK defence, UK-linked jobs and the UK currency – we wish to sever all remaining political connections with Britain.
In each of these areas Scotland benefits from being part of the UK.
I have already mentioned the NHS where because of Scotland’s higher needs and the cost of providing services across one-third of the UK’s land area, we benefit from an additional £1 billion from shared UK-wide funding. This means that £200 more a year is spent on the health care of each of us in Scotland than on our English neighbours.
The shared UK-wide funding of pensions means that with their greater needs because of poverty and disabilities, Scottish OAPs receive £425 million more each year from being part of the UK pension system than a division of resources based purely on population would provide. And the benefit of this shared funding will increase from £425 million this year to £700 million a year within two decades, as Scottish pensioners rise in numbers from one million to 1.3 million.
Nationalists say that to achieve social justice we should leave Britain. I say that the pooling and sharing of risks, rewards and resources across 63 million people rather than 5 million people, based on the principle of need rather than ability to pay, offers a far stronger reason on social justice grounds alone for staying part of the UK.
We also benefit in Scotland from shared UK defence and security. This year we remember how we enlisted, fought and sacrificed as one in the First World War 100 years ago, and in the Second World War too. Recent terrorist threats remind us of a basic truth that both in wartime and in peacetime we are stronger in defence and security as part of Britain.
Almost one million jobs in Scotland are directly or indirectly linked to our membership of the UK. What’s more, 70 per cent of our exports are to the rest of the UK and in some large sectors like financial services the figure is as high as 90 per cent. Scotland’s economy is not therefore comparable to that of Norway whose exports to Sweden – its largest neighbour – are less than 10 per cent of its total exports. Instead Scotland’s exports to England represent the vast majority of our exports and dwarf our exports to the U.S. or the rest of Europe.
And each side in this debate wants to keep the UK currency. But we believe that if we want to keep the UK currency, it is in the Scottish people’s interests that we are represented in the UK Parliament, Bank of England and Monetary Policy Committee where vital decisions affecting our lives – on interest rates, employment objectives, growth targets, anti-inflation policy and banking rescues – are made. If you want to stay in the UK currency, the logic is to stay in the UK.
So the choice on September 18th is really between two different kinds of change. The change sought by the nationalists – breaking all constitutional connections with our friends, neighbours and family in the rest of the UK – places the dogma of independence over the needs and interests of the Scottish people. But the proposals supported by the pro-devolution parties offer faster change, fairer change, safer change and better change. It is the change that most of us want and change that brings Scotland together.
We have now answered the question that the people of Scotland had for us about the certainty of change within the UK. Now it is time for Alex Salmond to answer the huge questions people have about independence.