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Brown blasted for 'Scotland first' vow

Exclusive GORDON Brown has been called on to renounce an oath he made as a Labour Opposition frontbencher always to put the interests of Scotland first.

The Prime Minister, who has come under increasing pressure to tackle the constitutional mess that gives Scottish MPs a greater say than their English counterparts, pledged in 1989 that he would always consider the interests of the Scottish people "paramount".

It prompted accusations in Yorkshire last night – and the tabling of a motion in the Commons – that unless he immediately disowned the statement he would be admitting to discriminating against England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The storm broke as constitutional experts told a parliamentary inquiry yesterday that Scotland still had too many MPs at Westminster, despite their number falling from 72 to 59 in 1999 when the Scottish parliament was set up.

It also follows weeks of controversy in Parliament about the West Lothian question – the issue of Scottish MPs voting on matters affecting just England when neither they, nor their English colleagues, have a say on the same subject in Scotland.

Conservative leader David Cameron has proposed a solution that stops short of an English parliament in the shape of "English votes for English laws", excluding Scottish MPs from voting on legislation that does not affect their constituencies.

Mr Brown's controversial promise was made in Edinburgh in March 1989 – while he was Labour's Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury – as one of the signatories to a pro-devolution declaration. It was entitled the Claim of Right for Scotland and backed by Labour and the Lib Dems, but opposed by the anti-devolution Tories. But, crucially, after acknowledging "the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs", it added: "And do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount."

In his Commons motion, Shipley MP Philip Davies stated this was "incompatible with being the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in which office the interests of all UK people should be equal" and "calls on him publicly to disassociate himself from and withdraw from the Scottish Claim of Right."

Last night, the Tory politician added: "It might be OK for Gordon Brown to sign up to something like this when he was little more than an MP, in opposition, but when you become Prime Minister of the whole United Kingdom it becomes entirely unacceptable.

"If he doesn't dissociate himself from the Claim of Right, people in Yorkshire and elsewhere in England cannot fail to raise a few eyebrows and question how suitable he is to be our Prime Minister.

"There's a feeling that the country's entire constitutional and financial arrangement is skewed hugely in Scotland's favour and people want that addressed, but they'll have no faith that he can do that if he keeps putting Scotland first."

Downing Street declined to comment last night.

 
 
 

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