A Bill setting out new powers for Scotland would be ready by Burns Night if the Scottish people vote to stay in the UK, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has revealed.
In apparent response to polls handing the Yes campaign its first lead, Mr Brown last night began to set out how the Westminster Government would devolve further powers to Scotland in the event of a No vote.
Mr Brown said a No vote would be the “starting gun” for further powers for Holyrood, with a new Scotland Act drawn up to give the country greater control over finance, welfare and taxation, possibly including Income Tax controls.
The pro-union Better Together campaign has denied that it is being forced into panic measures to shore up support and has dismissed claims that a promise to outline the handover of more powers is little more than a “bribe” with just 10 days to go to the crucial vote.
Mr Brown, who set out his plans in a speech at the Loanhead Miners’ Welfare and Social Club in Midlothian, said work would begin on the new legislation on September 19, the day after the vote.
He envisages a “command paper” to be published by the present UK Government setting out all the proposals for change no later than the end of October.
A White Paper would be drawn up in November after a period of consultation, with draft clauses for legislation expected in January.
Mr Brown said: “The alternative to an irreversible separation is a more powerful Scottish Parliament with a timetable for its delivery.
“Quite simply, Scottish voters deserve to know to the fullest extent possible about how new powers as ambitious as possible will be delivered as soon as possible within the UK.
“So, we are demanding a tight timetable with tough deadlines and streamlined procedures.
“A No vote on September 18 will not be an end point but the starting gun for action on September 19, when straight away we will kick off a plan to deliver the enhanced devolution that we want.”
Mr Brown said there would a modern form of Scottish home rule within the United Kingdom, published by St Andrew’s Day on November 30, with the draft laws around January 25.
David Cameron’s official spokesman declined to say whether the Prime Minister was told in advance about Mr Brown’s proposals. Asked repeatedly at a regular Westminster media briefing whether Mr Cameron had spoken to Mr Brown, the spokesman said only: “He speaks to a range of senior figures.”
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