Like Banquo’s ghost, Gordon Brown returns to haunt the independence debate in Scotland (Many Scots don’t want independence, but a more cooperative union, 9 May). And much like said spirit, he has come to represent not salvation but bad portents, because the last time he appeared was with “the vow” to deliver greater autonomy for Scotland within the union, in the hope of puncturing greater aspirations just prior to the referendum in September 2014. Then came David Cameron’s Downing Street “English votes for English laws” speech the day after the result, followed by the illusory promises of the Smith report. But here’s Brown again, heaving into view.
The truth is that either the vow wasn’t delivered on or the crumbs it offered weren’t enough for an ever greater number of people in Scotland who see the union for what it is: not a partnership of equals but an anachronism predicated on Scotland being forever subjugated to the Conservative-dominated political direction of travel down south.
Of course, it would be easy to dismiss me as a narrow-minded nationalist. But the truth is that I am Brown’s “middle Scotland”. If I thought that there was a chance of a fairer, more equal UK in the union, I would vote accordingly. But despite all the unionist rhetoric, the actions of the last five years since Brexit have proved that there is no appetite en masse in the English polity for a union of equals. And there never will be.
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• Gordon Brown makes a respectable pitch for a better constituted UK. But the time to have implemented his proposals was when he was in power, not now. Before 2016, they might have gone far to address a growing disillusion with the country’s governance, in Scotland as elsewhere. What for many of us sinks them now is the even more momentous constitutional reordering that has taken place since then. This has torn us from our European family and deprived us of our continent-wide citizenship.
The partnership that he advocates excludes our nearest neighbours and erstwhile closest friends. And the public mood and political stances south of the border hold out no hope of a reunion any time soon. Independence for Scotland seems the only realistic way of suturing this rupture, even if it comes at the cost of other wounds.
Gelston, Dumfries and Galloway
• Few who believe in progressive politics and the union could disagree with Gordon Brown’s analysis. It is therefore singularly unfortunate that the government he led for three years balked at the one thing that might have transformed both our politics and political system: electoral reform. Instead, he was content to create modern and ambitious devolved legislatures, elected by proportional representation in three of the four UK nations, while leaving the archaic first-past-the-post voting system untouched for the House of Commons.
Brown’s predecessor, Tony Blair, was fond of the vacuous term “modernisation”. Yet it is their joint failure to modernise the way that we elect our governments, along with other parts of the constitution, that is likely to prove fatal to the United Kingdom, and thus their enduring legacy.
Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex
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