Gordon Brown: government's English nationalism could split the union

Gordon Brown has accused the government of stoking a “dangerous and insidious” English nationalism that is putting the union between England and Scotland in “mortal danger”.

Speaking at the Edinburgh book festival, the former Labour prime minister said the future of the union would be determined by events surrounding the referendum on Britain’s EU membership.

The Conservative government had turned on the tap of English nationalism, said Brown, pointing to David Cameron’s plans for English votes for English laws, which he said risked creating two classes of MP at Westminster and would be unsustainable in the long run.

The European Union in/out referendum, due to be held before the end of 2017, could “either bring out the best in Britain as a country of progressive internationalism” or be dominated by “factions urging a retreat into narrow-minded protectionism”, he said.

Speaking weeks before the anniversary of the Scottish independence referendum, he said: “The nationalists in Scotland were playing the Scottish national card, there’s no doubt about it, but instead of playing the British unity card, the Conservatives decided to play at the general election the English nationalism card. All this was designed to give the idea that there was a Scottish menace, a Scottish danger, a Scottish risk.”

Brown warned that Scotland had no control over English nationalism, which had “changed dramatically” over the past year.

He said: “Even if the Scottish people decide that they were happy to have a balanced relationship with the UK where there was autonomy balanced by sharing, there is this new dimension in the arrangement - which will come alive again, I’m afraid, in the European referendum – and this, I’m afraid, is driving us apart.

“In the next 12 months, I believe the fate of the union will be determined not so much by what we’re saying here in Scotland but by many of these developments in England, which I think are dangerous and in some cases insidious.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Frances Perraudin, for The Guardian on Sunday 30th August 2015 18.40 Europe/London

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