(Reuters) – Former prime minister Gordon Brown urged British leaders on Saturday to keep their promise to grant further powers to Scotland after it voted to remain in the United Kingdom, as a consensus between London’s main parties evaporated.
All the three biggest parties had promised to rapidly expand Scotland’s autonomy in a last-minute push to shore up support for the union just days before Thursday’s referendum, which came down 55-45 against independence.
But within hours of the result, Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron had reshuffled the cards by promising not only to fulfill the pledge to Scotland but also to make it part of an overhaul of the balance of powers across the rest of the United Kingdom, within the same timeframe of a few months.
He vowed to produce “a balanced settlement: fair to people in Scotland and, importantly, to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well”.
The announcement quickly shattered the pre-referendum consensus among London’s main parties.
Labour opposition leader Ed Miliband said plans for constitutional change on that scale needed to be put to members of the public through a convention in autumn 2015, after the next parliamentary election – which Cameron’s Conservatives said amounted to kicking the issue “into the long grass”.
Labour’s Brown, who had helped to rally fellow Scots behind the United Kingdom, told supporters on Saturday in Fife, Scotland, that “the eyes of the world are upon the leaders of the major parties in the United Kingdom”.
“These are men who have been promise-makers and they will not be promise-breakers,” he said, “and I will ensure as a promise-keeper that these promises that have been made are upheld.”
Although the referendum result was clearer than expected, the fact that 45 percent backed secession attested to a dissatisfaction with London’s politicians that reaches from the divided streets of Northern Ireland to impoverished former mining villages in Wales, and not least to struggling parts of northern England that feel a million miles from the relative prosperity of London and the southeast.
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