As a former Rector of Edinburgh University, Gordon Brown gained a reputation for a formidable intellect.
At the weekend here in Edinburgh, we saw that forensic Brown brain working for that broken institution that he made such a fuss about saving in September last year, namely the Union between Scotland and England.
Last year he launched an impassioned attack on Scottish nationalism and made much of the cross-party “vow” to give more powers to Holyrood. On Sunday, Brown’s tune was considerably different.
I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard what Brown said at the Edinburgh Book Festival, and I awaited the clamour of the press and broadcasting media as Brown launched a quite astonishing attack on his erstwhile Better Together colleagues.
Here is the BBC transcript of the salient points of Sunday’s speech: “Almost a year on from the referendum we can detect three potentially fatal flaws in the Conservative government’s approach to Scotland and the Union.
“The most immediate is the refusal to grant the Scottish Parliament full top-up powers on welfare as Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray has demanded, in defiance of the recommendations of the Smith Commission and the Vow.
“Second, the Conservative policy of English votes for English laws (EVEL) would create two classes of MPs – the majority who vote at all times and the Scots who are excluded from key votes on some issues – making the UK home to the first elected body in the world to treat one of its constituent parts – Scotland – as ‘half in, half out’ of its law-making process.”
Brown said the third flaw was the readiness of the Conservatives “to turn on the tap of English nationalism.”
Reuters quoted Brown as saying at the same event that this Tory approach puts the Union “in mortal danger”. He added: “As the government of the UK, and as a self-proclaimed Unionist party, they should instead be standing up for British values and institutions that we share in common and which connect us together.”
As an SNP member, I can but welcome the former Prime Minister’s conversion to the ranks of those who distrust the Tories. What a pity he ever left our ranks in the first place.
Now pause and look at what he has said – Scotland is not getting what was promised under the Vow . . . Tory English nationalism is putting the Union in mortal danger . . . English votes for English laws creates two classes of MPs.
Astonishing stuff, not least because that last point is exactly what the SNP has been saying since David Cameron first pronounced for EVEL.
Brown has at least had the intellectual honesty to admit that the Vow has not been fulfilled, and at the same time the great brain has zeroed in on the real threat to the Union – English Tory nationalism.
In this he is also showing consistency of a kind. A year ago Brown said: “What we have built together, by sacrificing and sharing, let no narrow nationalism split asunder ever.” Bet when he said that he never thought it would be English nationalism that would be the real threat.
Brown has finally realised the truth – that he was duped by Cameron and co. I invite all his fans, including the Unionist press in Scotland, to do the same.
My ruck runs out
I also missed a rugby international at Murrayfield for the first time in years, and did Scotland not go and thrash the Italians by a record score.
Lucky white heather anyone?
I think I’ll turn the page on Facebook
I HAD always resisted joining Facebook and Twitter, not least because no one would indemnify me for the damage caused by the outbursts that I am only too aware I am capable of.
Recently I decided to give Facebook a go again, and promptly fell foul of a hacker who thought it would be fun to promote diets and health stuff under my identity.
I am awaiting Facebook’s explanation as to how this privacy invasion could happen. Meanwhile, be assured that I never endorse anything that has failed to work for me, which is why I cannot endorse Facebook at this time.
A vintage year for the Festival
Having been rendered virtually housebound due to a knee replacement at the beginning of the month, I have to confess that for the first time in 30 years, I didn’t make it along to any International Festival event from the spectacular Harmonium Project to last night’s fireworks.
I am told by knowledgeable people, however, that this year’s International Festival has been terrific.
Alistair is well versed in noble art of blunders
I am genuinely pleased that Alistair Darling has been raised to the ranks of the peerage, for the Noble Lord’s elevation is yet more proof of why the whole damned institution should be scrapped.
That Darling has been ennobled clearly as a “thank you” for his role in leading Better Together last year was entirely to be expected – to the victor goes the spoils, as the saying has it.
His presence in the Lords means there will be someone with real expertise among the party donors and Commons’ timeservers who populate the Upper House.
Whenever the Lords need someone to explain how banks fail and why light touch regulation is disastrous, they will just send for Lord Darling.