Gordon Brown: Scotland needs ‘time to heal’ before any referendum

Publishedduration5 hours ago

image captionGordon Brown also said the “middle of a recession” was not the time to consider a second referendum

A referendum on Scottish independence should not be held while the country “heals” from coronavirus, former prime minister Gordon Brown has said.

Mr Brown said the country was facing “huge problems” and should not hold a referendum.

“We’re in the middle of a virus, we’re in the middle of a recession,” he told BBC’s Andrew Marr programme.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford has said his party “must” plan for a referendum in 2021.

Mr Blackford tweeted that a vote for the SNP in the Scottish Parliament elections next year would be a vote for a second referendum on Scottish independence.

“It is the people of Scotland who will determine our future. That is their right, sovereignty rests with us collectively. A vote for @theSNP in 2021 is for that right to be exercised, we know it, @BorisJohnson knows it,” he said.

Speaking in the Sunday National newspaper, Mr Blackford apologised for having to “put off” holding a referendum in 2020 as the Scottish government had to focus on its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Mr Blackford insisted that a referendum would happen and “must take place in 2021”.

However Gordon Brown said the country needed “time to heal” before “any divisive, conflicting referendum that really will cause consternation in Scotland for months and months to come”.

“The question at the moment is not whether you could have a referendum, the question is whether you should have a referendum,” the former Labour leader said.

“I see the SNP leader is saying there’s got to be a referendum in 2021. I think most Scottish people will make up their mind that in the middle of a virus, when you’ve got to heal the virus, you’ve got to heal the recession and you’ve got to look at the whole future of Britain… I don’t think this is the right time at all.”

Mr Brown also told the BBC that a “wholesale, root and branch constitutional review” was needed to bring people together.

“It’s not just a Scottish problem now. It’s not even just a Welsh problem and a Scottish problem – you see the revolt of the regions round the United Kingdom,” he said.

‘Indyref2 next year’ may be what some increasingly impatient sections of the ‘yes’ movement want to hear two weeks before the SNP’s virtual conference but it seems an unlikely timetable.

Firstly, the pandemic will continue into 2021 and dealing with that will remain the overwhelming priority for all governments.

Secondly, the Scottish government favours a referendum agreed with the UK government which has given every indication, so far, that it would refuse.

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