Gordon Brown has threatened to stand for election to the Scottish Parliament over Alex Salmond’s ‘lies’ about the NHS.
The former Prime Minister said he would make a dramatic return to frontline politics north of the border to tackle the SNP head on.
His announcement prompted speculation that the former prime minister – who would be a significant figure compared to the those currently representing Labour in Scotland – might even seek to succeed Mr Salmond as Scotland’s leader.
The former Prime Minister, who is still an MP in Westminster, said: ‘I say this to Mr Salmond himself. If he continues to peddle this deception then I will want to join Johann Lamont in fighting him and securing the return of a Labour Government as quickly as possible.’
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Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown in Kilmarnock, Scotland, today suggested he would stand for the Scottish Parliament if Alex Salmond continued ‘lying’ about the NHS
Mr Brown said he was prepared to return to frontline politics to fight the SNP in Holyrood, Edinburgh
Mr Brown, who has rarely been seen at Westminster since losing the 2010 election and resigning as Labour leader, has re-emerged to try to revive the faltering No campaign.
He even won praise from his old enemy David Cameron this week for ‘catalysing’ agreement on a rapid timetable for the devolution of more powers to the parliament in Holyrood.
Mr Brown will be 65 by the time of the next Scottish parliament elections in 2016. He has insisted he intends to stand in the General Election next year, but it is still possible to run in Holyrood elections while remaining an MP at Westminster.
Mr Brown’s surprise threat came as he launched a bid to shore up support for the Union among Scottish pensioners.
A Survation poll released last night showed the over 65s were overwhelmingly planning to vote ‘No’ – by 57 per cent to just 36 per cent in favour.
Mr Brown said Labour would not devolve Scottish pensions to Edinburgh – because they were safer under the protection of the UK Government.
But he said Mr Salmond’s claim that the NHS was in danger from London were bogus because the health service was already controlled by Holyrood.
Mr Brown also vowed to hand further tax raising powers for the Scottish Government to increase funding for the health service.
He added that if Mr Salmond continued to claim that Labour was a threat to the NHS he would stand for office in Scotland.
The revelation that Mr Brown was prepared to move his political career to Edinburgh overshadowed his pitch to pensioners to vote against independence.
Mr Brown said: ‘The nationalists want you to believe that if an English Prime Minister sought to privatise the NHS in Scotland or cut its budget, Scots would be powerless to prevent this from happening.
‘They want you to believe that the Scottish Parliament is powerless to act to safeguard our NHS.
If Mr Brown returned to front-line politics in Holyrood it would mark a dramatic resurrection of his career after leaving Number 10 in 2010
‘They want you to conclude that separation is the only answer if you care about the NHS. This is a nationalist deception – a claim that does not stand up to the evidence and that is not supported by the facts.
‘What the nationalists don’t tell you is that the Scottish health service cannot be privatised by Westminster because all decisions about our NHS are made here in Scotland. The Scottish Parliament, created by Labour in 1998, has full control over our health service.
‘What the nationalists also don’t tell you is that they are not powerless to fund the NHS. Under the Scotland Act 1998, they already had the power to raise an extra £1,000 million in tax to help pay for the NHS in Scotland.
‘Had they wanted to use it, the SNP could have raised the Scottish healthcare budget from £12 billion to £13 billion.
‘The Scottish Parliament has all the powers it needs to fund the NHS in Scotland.’
He added: ‘It is time to nail the nationalist lie.’
He said: ‘Do you think that I or anyone else who cares about the NHS would let it be privatised in Scotland or have its funds cut – without a fight?
‘Would we stand back and do nothing without ensuring that there were laws in place to guarantee that the NHS could not be privatised in Scotland or see its funding cut without our permission?’
He also attacked Mr Salmond for rejecting the latest warnings that big businesses would move their headquarters to England in the event of a Yes vote next week.
Paraphrasing a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, he said: ‘I say to Alex Salmond: you can try to dismiss some of the warnings some of the time but you cannot dismiss all of the warnings all of the time.’
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But SNP leader Mr Salmond insisted Scotland was on the ‘cusp of making history’ by voting for independence in a week’s time.
Vowing that Scots ‘will vote Yes’ in seven days’ time, he attacked the No camp for being in ‘terminal decline’ the day after the leaders of three main UK parties travelled north of the border in a bid to save the union.
Mr Salmond said: ‘Scotland is on the cusp of making history. The eyes of the world are upon Scotland. And what the world is seeing is an articulate, peaceful, energised debate.
‘Scotland will vote Yes next Thursday and they will vote Yes because last minute, cobbled up promises from the No campaign which unravel at the slightest scrutiny will not fool anyone in this country and neither will the blatant bullying and intimidation of the Westminster Government.
‘The No campaign is in terminal decline. In contrast a Yes vote is the opportunity of a lifetime. An opportunity to build a fairer more prosperous country.’
The latest Survation poll for the Daily Record puts support for the union at 53 per cent and backing for independence on 47 per cent, when undecided voters are excluded.
Last night an unprecedented list of 200 health workers – including porters, nurses, GPs and the country’s top consultants – signed a letter warning that independence is a ‘great risk’ to the NHS.
The open letter to the Scottish Dail Mail stated: ‘Patients from Scotland can access the care they need anywhere in the UK. Independence would, at best, put them at the back of the queue.They accused the Yes campaign of peddling lies about the NHS.
SCOTLAND UNDER ALEX SALMOND SPENDS LESS ON THE NHS THAN ENGLAND UNDER THE TORIES, SAYS INSTITUTE OF FISCAL STUDIES
The Institute of Fiscal Studies today released independent analysis undermining Mr Salmond’s claim that independence was necessary to protect the NHS.
The respected economic think tank said health was already a devolved matter. The IFS also revealed that Mr Salmond had spent less on health than the Tories in Westminster.
It said: ‘This means the Scottish NHS does not have to make more use of private sector providers just because the English NHS is (and indeed, it hasn’t been).
‘And the Scottish government decides how much money to allocate to the Scottish NHS from the overall block grant it receives from Westminster. To a significant extent then, the future of the Scottish NHS is already in Scottish hands.’
The IFS added: ‘Between 2009-10 and 2015-16 spending on the NHS in England will, on currently announced plans, have risen by about 4 per cent in real terms despite an overall fall of 13 per cent in English departmental spending.
‘Over the same period the vagaries of the Barnett formula mean that Scotland will have had to cut overall public service spending by less – by about 8 per cent rather than 13 per cent.
‘But the Scottish government has chosen to protect the NHS in Scotland slightly less than it has been protected in England. Spending on the NHS in Scotland has fallen by 1 per cent.
‘Scottish Governments in Holyrood have placed less priority on funding the NHS in Scotland (and more on funding other services) than governments in Westminster have for England.’