Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown says Scotland, England and Wales are “moving closer together, not further apart”, and should come together to create a “better Britain” or risk losing it altogether.
A new poll, conducted for Mr Brown’s pro-unionist think tank Our Scottish Future, suggests the three nations are more united than people think on what issues the government needs to focus on, and on the values that underpin national pride.
He also says the likes of Marcus Rashford and Gareth Southgate are making a “huge difference” to the way Scottish people perceive England.
Brown’s hopes for a ‘Britain of unity’
The pollster spoke to 2,000 people in England, 1,000 in Scotland and 500 in Wales, and found 41%, 42% and 47% respectively all agree the number one issue the government needs to focus on is the NHS.
Other key issues people across the three nations agree is important include giving older people a dignified retirement, fighting climate change, and making sure children get a good education.
Mr Brown, who campaigned for the union in the 2014 independence referendum, also warns the “muscular unionism” of Boris Johnson has no support in Scotland, and will just lead to more stand-off from the SNP, and politics needs to focus more on cooperation rather than confrontation.
He says the “new post-austerity, post-Brexit, post-Covid Britain” needs to find its voice in the coming years or risk the future of the union.
The former prime minister said: “Looking ahead, when we now have to address not just pandemics but the other challenges of the 2020s – climate change, financial instability and gross inequalities – are nationalists not now, for the first time in years, on the defensive?
“Is it not time to ask them why they don’t want to cooperate with neighbours who share their values and ask who benefits when cooperation fails?
“I believe that as Covid and culture wars recede, the idea of a new Britain has more resonance and credibility than the talk of a new Britain in 1997.
“It will be a Britain whose unity evolves out of our diversity and is built on a shared belief in equal rights guaranteed to all with personal responsibility the duty of all.
“The next step is to reconstruct our institutions to reflect that better Britain and, not least in the light of our recent Afghanistan nightmare, reimagine our country as a force for good.
“The message is clear: seize the moment to build a new Britain – or risk losing it altogether.”
Southgate effect on Scottish voters
Mr Brown also says many portray England as being full of “Etonians” and “football hooligans”, but says those who portray a more tolerant and diverse England, such as Marcus Rashford, Gareth Southgate and Emma Raducanu, will make a big difference to how nationalists and those who haven’t made up their mind on IndyRef2 view their neighbours south of the border.
He said: “Something we will remember is Gareth Southgate at the Euros and the reaction against the booing of the football team and Marcus Rashford.
“Southgate said England had lost its sense of identity and was trying to find it, and we are a tolerant and diverse country.
“He was setting out a view in England which is similar to how people in Scotland feel about Scotland.
“As many people in Scotland who are proud of their country being tolerant are proud in England for being tolerant as well.
“England, Scotland and Wales share the same values but when it comes to asking people in Scotland if they are more or less warm about England, the England Southgate represents doesn’t make much of a difference to unionists, but a huge difference to the people in the middle and the people who are nationalists.”