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Labour's 'timetable' for Holyrood

A timetable to give the Scottish Parliament more powers if voters reject independence in next week's referendum has been announced by former prime minister Gordon Brown.

Mr Brown said a No vote would be the "starting gun" for further powers for Holyrood, with a new Scotland Act drawn up to give the country greater control over finance, welfare and taxation.

A Downing Street source welcomed the intervention, but Yes campaigners said the move smacked of panic and desperation from the No side.

Mr Brown was speaking after a YouGov poll put support for independence just ahead for the first time. The pro-union Better Together campaign has dismissed claims that a promise to outline the handover of more powers is little more than a "bribe" with just 10 days to go to the crucial vote.

Mr Brown, who set out his plans in a speech in Loanhead, Midlothian, said work would begin on the new legislation on September 19, the day after the vote.

He envisions a "command paper" to be published by the present UK Government setting out all the proposals for change no later than the end of October.

A white paper would be drawn up in November after a period of consultation, with draft clauses for legislation expected in January.

Mr Brown said: "The alternative to an irreversible separation is a more powerful Scottish Parliament with a timetable for its delivery. Quite simply, Scottish voters deserve to know to the fullest extent possible about how new powers as ambitious as possible will be delivered as soon as possible within the UK.

"So, we are demanding a tight timetable with tough deadlines and streamlined procedures.

"A No vote on September 18 will not be an end point but the starting gun for action on September 19, when straight away we will kick off a plan to deliver the enhanced devolution that we want.

"On September 19 we will start bringing into law the new, stronger Scottish Parliament, and to secure the change we want we will work with the other parties.

"The Scottish people will expect nothing less, not only because that is the right thing to do, but because we need an agreed timetable with deadlines for delivery and a roadmap to our goal."

Mr Brown said Labour was "taking the initiative" by putting forward the timetable.

He added: "Labour since Keir Hardie has been the party of home rule for Scotland within the United Kingdom, so the plan for a stronger Scottish Parliament we seek agreement on is for nothing else than a modern form of Scottish home rule within the United Kingdom, published by St Andrew's Day on November 30, with the draft laws around January 25 - interestingly enough by Burns Night."

Welcoming the intervention, a Downing Street source said: "This is exactly the sort of thing which the Scottish parties have been discussing in recent weeks."

A senior Liberal Democrat source also welcomed Mr Brown's initiative.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said: "If we win the general election, we will move with utmost speed in our first Queen's Speech to enact this legislation. It is Scottish Labour who have drawn up a timetable and a plan for a new Scotland Act. A Labour government will deliver it."

Speaking on behalf of the Yes Scotland campaign, Labour for Independence campaigner Bob Thomson said: "This smacks of utter panic and desperation by the No campaign as they lose their lead in the polls.

"Gordon Brown is in no position to offer anything - he is a backbench MP, and the Tories are in power at Westminster.

"The choice is to vote Yes for all the powers we need to create jobs and protect Scotland's NHS - or No for a Tory-led talking shop.

"The people of Scotland will not trust the Tories to deliver powers that in any event fall far short of what we need. The sure fire way to achieve the full range of powers Scotland needs to build a fairer society and more prosperous economy is to vote Yes a week on Thursday."

Earlier, Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was joined on the campaign trail by Leanne Wood, the leader of Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru, and Hollywood star Alan Cumming.

X-Men actor Mr Cumming, originally from Aberfeldy, Perthshire, urged people north of the border to vote Yes and ''grab this wonderful opportunity with both hands''.

Mr Sturgeon said: "I don't think there's any doubt at all the momentum is with the Yes campaign but there is no sense of our campaign taking anything for granted.

"We have campaigned on the basis of patient persuasion, often person by person right across the country, that's what we'll continue to do."

Better Together leader Alistair Darling, campaigning in Edinburgh, insisted he was still ''very confident'' that voters will reject independence.


From Belfast Telegraph