Scottish Independence: Gordon Brown pensions claim

Former Labour leader Gordon Brown. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Former Labour leader Gordon Brown. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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GORDON Brown stepped up the anti-independence campaign today with a warning on pensions as he made his first appearance under the Better Together banner.

The former prime minister’s move, claiming that pensioners are better protected as part of the UK, came after a weekend poll showed Yes support close to overtaking the backing for No.

Meanwhile, Edinburgh University joined Glasgow and Aberdeen in quitting the CBI after the business organisation registered to campaign against independence.

The university said it hosted debate from all sides but had a strictly neutral position on the issue as an institution. “We have therefore withdrawn from membership of CBI Scotland while they are officially backing one side in that ­debate.”

Several other companies have also quit in protest at the move. CBI director general John Cridland defended the organisation’s stance.

He said: “We are not trying to campaign to influence the Scottish voter but we are a business organisation and on the business issues – jobs in Scotland, growth in Scotland, living standards in Scotland – we have a view: we don’t think the economic case for independence has been made and we think the economy in Scotland and the economy of the United Kingdom is stronger ­together.”

In a speech later today, Mr Brown, who has previously spoken on United with Labour platforms, was due to say an independent Scotland’s first annual pension bill would be “three times the income from oil”.

He was expected to warn of a “pensioner time bomb” as the number of elderly people grows faster than the working age population and claim Scotland faces a £100 billion public sector pensions bill with an additional £1bn of administration costs through duplicating UK services.

The Better Together campaign billed Mr Brown’s speech as making a “positive” case, but the SNP hit back, saying it was negative, scaremongering and lacked credibility.

Better Together launched a posters claiming Scotland enjoyed “the best of both worlds” by having a Scottish Parliament “with more powers guaranteed” while staying in the UK. Yes Scotland launched a poster blitz with the word Can’t changed to Can.

An ICM poll at the weekend put Yes support at 39 per cent compared with 42 per cent for No.

Campaigning ‘marred by negative tone’

The Evening News referendum panel is not impressed with the negative tone of some of the campaigning.

Livvi Robertson, 16, pupil at The Mary Erskine School: “Better Together has been putting down the Yes campaign rather than promoting its own vision and people have reacted against that.”

Bonnie McCracken, 17, pupil at Craigroyston High: “I’m excited the polls are moving to Yes, but still not that confident that will be the result. I’d say Better Together has been very negative so far, but I think if they are trying to be more positive now it will just confuse people.”

Justin Bickler, 15, pupil at Boroughmuir High School: “I’ve noticed the Yes campaign has been doing a lot more and I’ve not seen much from Better Together at all. I’m still inclined to vote No, but I feel they could be doing a lot more.”

Tina Woolnough, Blackhall community activist: “I feel Scotland is being treated dis-respectfully. The Westminster government is very patronising. They suggest it’s all in their gift to decide Scotland’s future. The relationship is all wrong. If we’re so much better together, what is our contribution that’s treated with some respect?”

Jonathan Law, owner of Saks Hairdressing, Jeffrey Street: “My views are very much still on the fence. It’s better being part of something bigger in one sense, but I can understand people wanting to be independent as well.”

Robert Thornton, 64, shopkeeper, Grassmarket: “The No side has been very negative.”