Former prime minister Gordon Brown accused Nicola Sturgeon of ‘petty politicking’ over Scottish independence today, telling the First Minister to focus on Covid and nothing else.
In his first major intervention in the Holyrood election campaign the former Labour leader said that the SNP chief should ‘put her constitutional argument to one side and focus on the job in front of her’.
Mr Brown, who was a prominent No campaigner in the 2014 independence referendum, went public today with his support for Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar ahead of May’s Holyrood election.
His broadside at the SNP came as Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf claimed Scottish independence is ‘essential to the long-term recovery’ of the country from Covid-19.
Scottish independence has been a centrepiece of the SNP campaign so far, but Mr Brown urged First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to turn her focus to the recovery and the economy.
Writing in the Daily Record today, Mr Brown said: ‘This is no time for our political leaders to hunker down. They must recognise they have no greater duty than setting out measures to tackle this. That means an end to petty politicking.
‘Devolution has given Scotland the power to act. The Covid crisis has handed the Scottish Government extra resources to support our economy and high streets.
‘Nicola Sturgeon must do what I think even she knows is right – to put her constitutional argument to one side and focus on the job in front of her.’
Writing in the Daily Record today, Mr Brown said: ‘This is no time for our political leaders to hunker down. They must recognise they have no greater duty than setting out measures to tackle this. That means an end to petty politicking.’
Scottish independence has been a centrepiece of the SNP campaign so far for Nicola Sturgeon, as she seeks an overall Holyrood majority
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf claimed Scottish independence is ‘essential to the long-term recovery’ of the country from Covid-19
Economists have warned there could be a spike in unemployment once the furlough scheme ends in September, with employers still struggling under the weight of pandemic recovery.
Mr Brown was prime minister during the financial crash of 2008, which he compared to the economic toll of the pandemic, saying: ‘More than 10 years ago, as the financial crisis ripped apart economies across the world, we faced the same challenge – and a similar choice.
‘We could batten down the hatches and accept a new Great Depression or act with speed.
‘As Scotland emerges from the pandemic, the situation is as serious as it was then – and without action the consequences will be just as dire.’
His comments sparked a furious backlash from the SNP. Its depute leader Keith Brown said Mr Brown is ‘the very last person anyone in Scotland should be listening to’.
He added: ‘He told people to vote No in 2014, and that has ensured continued Tory austerity, Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, and Brexit imposed on Scotland against our will – a Brexit which Gordon Brown’s Labour party now supports.
‘Having the powers of independence is essential to ensuring the sustainable, fair recovery we need to see, and we will offer people that choice in a post-pandemic referendum.
‘Voting Labour at this election risks handing Scotland’s future to Boris Johnson. Giving both votes to the SNP will put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands.’
Mr Yousaf became the latest in a line of the party’s leading MSPs who said a referendum would only be held after the pandemic was over.
Mr Sturgeon suggested in an interview last week it could be in the first two and a half years of the next parliamentary term.
‘Once the Covid crisis is over, we believe people in Scotland must have the right to decide their own future and whether they wish to become an independent country,’ he said today.
‘Independence is not a distraction from recovery, it is essential for the long-term recovery people in Scotland deserve and need.
‘It will equip our country and our Parliament with the powers to build the better Scotland we know is possible.’
Mr Yousaf singled out the Labour Party as ‘shrugging their shoulders’ while the UK Government does ‘real harm’ to Scotland.
He said: ‘In an independent Scotland the decisions about our future will be decided by the people who live here, not by Westminster.
‘So other parties in this election, like Labour, who say we should not have the right to determine our own future, they’ve made a choice.
‘In the face of a Tory Government at Westminster that is doing real harm to Scotland, they’re just shrugging their shoulders.
‘They’ve decided Westminster should be allowed to decide Scotland’s future – they are giving permission to Boris Johnson to continue taking Scotland in the wrong direction.
‘That’s not standing up for Scotland or recovery – it’s letting people in Scotland down.’