Gordon Brown has accused David Cameron of risking the unity of Great Britain by “retreating to become the party of English nationalism” and wrongly accusing Labour of plotting a deal with the Scottish National party.
The former prime minister told an audience in his home town of Kirkcaldy, a traditional Labour stronghold where the SNP is threatening to win, that the Conservatives were desperate to combat Ukip and undermine Labour in England by “whipping up anti-Scottish feeling”.
Brown said the Tories had switched tactics because they had failed to defeat the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, on policy and had failed to undermine his credibility. Now they were pushing English votes for English laws and, for the first time ever, publishing an English manifesto on Friday.
“There’s no chance of a deal between the Labour party and the Scottish National party, so how do the Conservatives keep this issue going?” Brown asked. “Their friends in the press talk about it all the time. They whip up fear in England. What has happened is that the Conservative party has retreated to the most base tactic imaginable.
“Instead of defending as they should the unity of the United Kingdom, instead of defending the principle of sharing, they’ve retreated to become the party of English nationalism against Scottish nationalism.”
He concluded: “The purpose of this has nothing to do with what the truth is. There will be no pact, no coalition – Ed Miliband has made that absolutely clear – between Labour and the SNP. Its purpose is to whip up anti-Scottish feeling in England, to bolster their vote against Ukip in England.”
Brown has retired as MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath after nearly 30 years in the Commons. Labour may lose the seat – where Brown secured a record 23,000 vote majority in 2010 – to the SNP after the nationalist surge following the independence referendum.
Brown again publicly endorsed his successor as Labour candidate, Kenny Selbie. He also accused Alex Salmond of deliberately manipulating voters into believing that the SNP honestly preferred a Labour government at Westminster.
“When has Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon or any SNP MP or MSP advocated a vote for the Labour party?” he asked. “When they say they want a Labour government can you believe them when none of them has ever advocated a vote for the Labour party in Scotland, England or anywhere else?
“They’ve always advocated anything other than Labour. The idea that the SNP has any interest in electing a Labour party government is totally fictitious. They only succeed when there’s a unsuccessful Conservative government like today. And we have got to tell people what the truth is.”
In the latest in a series of Labour spending pledges designed to rebuild the party’s fast-ebbing support in Scotland, Brown said a Labour government in London would immediately give £5,000 to all 167 food banks in Scotland within 24 hours of victory.
Labour would offer the poor cheap loans to deal with payday lenders plus help with rural bus fares and with cheap cookers and fuel bills. “It’s a scandal in 2015 that there are so many people going without basic necessities, as a result of the punitive decisions which have been made by this government,” Brown said.
“It’s a sin that the Conservatives were telling people we were all in this together while cutting welfare benefits, imposing the bedroom tax and giving a huge tax cut to millionaires and that is what’s going to be reversed.”
Eilidh Whiteford, who is aiming to hold her Westminster seat of Banff and Buchan for the SNP, accused Brown of having a selective memory.
She said the SNP had already given Scottish food banks more than £1m as well as helping mitigate the effects of the bedroom tax. Labour insists the Scottish government only acted on that benefit cut after coming under intense Labour pressure at Holyrood.
“Far more critical is the need to bring an end to the austerity that has seen such a dramatic rise in their use,” Whiteford said. “As long as Labour remain committed to more austerity cuts, they simply cannot be taken seriously on this issue.
“The SNP manifesto this week made clear that SNP MPs will oppose further cuts to child benefit and tax credits and support increasing free childcare to 30 hours per week by 2020.”
This article was written by Severin Carrell Scotland correspondent, for theguardian.com on Thursday 23rd April 2015 21.04 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010