The great Fife debate

Gordon Brown delivers the inaugural Campbell Christie Lecture in the Scottish Parliament
Gordon Brown delivers the inaugural Campbell Christie Lecture in the Scottish Parliament
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thE debate on the future of Scotland is coming to the Kingdom.

The issues of independence or remaining part of the union together with social justice will form the basis of ‘The Fife Debates’ organised by Gordon Brown MP, Provost Jim Leishman, and Alex Rowley, leader of Fife Council.

They come on the back of Mr Brown’s first ever address to the Scottish Parliament on Friday where he gave the inaugural Campbell Christie Memorial Lecture at the Festival of Politics 2012.

His key theme was social justice - and now the Kirkcaldy MP wants to take that message back to Fife in a series of talks later this year.

Mr Brown said: ‘‘Given the need for a full debate, we want to make Kirkcaldy and Fife the centre for discussion on the key issues- the economy, jobs, prospects for young people, and pensions.’’

Major events

The plan is to launch the Fife Debate in Kirkcaldy in September with other key Fife towns - such as Glenrothes and Dunfermline - also staging major events later in the year.

Speakers will include academics and experts on politics and Scottish social history - likely names include Tom Devine, author and professor - and they will be hosted by the leading Fife politicians.

The aim is to make the debates a focal point on the big issue of whether Scotland is better off as an independent nation or part of the union.

Mr Brown’s address to the Scottish Parlimanent highlighted his case for greater benefits to the country by remaining part of the union.

Speaking for 45 minutes without notes, he linked the influential work of figures as diverse as Robert Burns, William McIlvanney and Adam Smith in his address to the Chamber which included Iain Gray, former Scottish Labour leader, among the guests.

He argued the debate about Scotland’s future was “upside down and back to front” - ans called for a wider debate on the key issues.

He said: “With its current focus on process and not on principles, the debate about Scotland’s future is about the minutiae of process and not about fundamental beliefs.

‘‘We should not neglect the biggest issue of all – what we Scots aspire to as a people.”

Moral core

He argued Scotland was defined by its commitment to social justice - and ‘‘a moral core’’ was essential to the role played by the public sector.

“Because of the insistent Scottish demand for social justice, we have not only shaped what Scottish civic authorities, the Scottish Office and now the Scottish Parliament does at home,’’ he said.

“We have, over many decades, shaped the Union, trying to make it a social justice union – to make it fairer and better in the future.

“It is a social justice union founded on the pooling of risks and resources in a way unparalleled anywhere in the world – so that every Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish citizen should have the same political, economic and social rights.”

“The Union is based, not just on common political rights, but common social and economic rights.

“There are good principled reasons why we scrapped the Scottish and English Poor Laws and replaced them with a British welfare state – good, principled reasons why we have common pensions across Britain, why workers have the same equal rights to unemployment insurance and benefits.

“We recognise that by unity across frontiers, and by pooling and sharing resources, we can get a better deal for all.”