Gordon Brown explains what ‘independence means’
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The Harwich and North Essex MP launched a passionate defence of the United Kingdom as he warned the future of the country is at stake. He made his remarks while speaking at a virtual conference on “The Future of the Union”, hosted by the influential Brexit-backing think tank, The Bruges Group this afternoon.
Boris Johnson has announced he is launching a new UK Shared Prosperity fund from next year that will allow Westminster to directly fund projects in the devolved nations.
The hope is it will boost support for the Union by making clear to voters that money invested in local areas is coming from London rather than the Scottish Government.
“The breakup of the UK has huge, huge consequences which are avoidable and we should do our best to avoid it while making sure the money that we spent in Scotland is spent with good grace but is spent more accountably and more transparently,” Sir Bernard told the online conference today as he praised the anticipated new fund.
There has been criticism in some quarters there will be the perception of preferential treatment to Scotland with extra funding for north of the border.
The veteran MP warned Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP were counting on Unionists in England to feel begrudging about the money spent to help bolster support for independence.
He said: “It’s very tempting to feel ‘oh, this has all become too much’.
“Of course, the Scottish National Party, in particular, specialises in tiresome and unpleasant rhetoric to create an atmosphere amongst English voters and English MPs of ‘we give them all this money and they’re so ungrateful, why do we bother?’
“Well, I’m afraid, patience is the virtue and we have to have patience.
“We have to start winning arguments in Scotland in the way that we haven’t bothered to before. It’s in our national interest to do so.”
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The UK Shared Prosperity fund will replace the European Structural Funds now Britain has left the EU.
It is currently being piloted under the branding of the Community Renewal Fund ahead of its launch across the UK next year.
Warning the breakup of the UK would be detrimental to the future of England, Sir Bernard said the country would be “utterly diminished if Scotland broke away”.
He said: “It would be the end of our great island story.
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“It would be the end of the image of the UK as a small but disproportionately powerful country. The influence in security and trade is disproportionate to our size.
“England would become much more ‘just another country’.
“There is one additional complication that I beg you to consider, and that is our nuclear deterrent is based in Scotland.
“When the Glen Lyon missile facility was rebuilt a decade or so ago, it was one of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe.
“The suitability of the area for our nuclear deterrent is unparalleled anywhere else in the UK.
“The cost of transferring our nuclear deterrent would be possible disproportionate, so add we would have to reopen the whole debate about whether we could afford a nuclear deterrent and would we win that argument?
“So add to the loss of Scotland the loss of our nuclear deterrent and influence that entails and the additional instability in global politics as a result of the UK dismantling itself.”
The SNP has vowed to hold a new independence referendum as soon as Scotland has recovered from coronavirus.
The party claims they have a mandate for a fresh vote because a majority of MSPs elected to Holyrood last month back separating from the UK.
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