GORDON Brown has today backed effective Home Rule for Scotland, saying that a “constitutional breakthrough” is now needed in light of the Brexit vote.

The former Prime Minister, speaking at the Edinburgh Book Festival, made clear that the current constitutional arrangements, such as the Smith Commission and new Scotland Act, had been overtaken by events and that more powers were now needed for Holyrood over issues like the environment, agriculture and fisheries, as well as employment rights.

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This, he suggested, meant considering the case for a new financial settlement for Scotland “over and above Barnett” to take into account such new powers, which could be “possibly as big as £750 million annually”.

Using terms like “co-decision making,” and suggesting Scotland could unilaterally sign up to international agreements on those policy areas the Edinburgh Parliament controlled, Mr Brown spoke of a more federal structure to the UK while recognising the benefits of pooling and sharing resources while part of the Union.

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He also noted how even leading Nationalists had to accept in light of the Brexit vote that “independence is far more difficult in 2016 or 2017 than it was in 2014” and that, were it to happen post the UK leaving the EU, then a hard border between Scotland and England might have to be erected.

Crucially, the former PM argued that the case should now be examined for “clarifying the division of powers; stating that certain specific powers should be reserved to the UK Parliament such as on currency, defence and security and pensions and that all others are powers available to the Scottish Parliament”.

In 2014 in the final days of the independence referendum campaign, Mr Brown led the Unionist case for The Vow, pledging more powers, primarily on tax, for the Scottish Parliament. At the time, the former MP for Kirkcaldy insisted what was being proposed was “nothing less than a modern form of Scottish Home Rule”.

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But since then the SNP, in particular, has claimed that the UK Government has reneged on The Vow and that the extra powers given to Holyrood have fallen well short of Home Rule.

However in his speech in Edinburgh, the former PM decried what he called was the “tired old arguments and slogans” between the Conservatives’ traditional Unionism and the Nationalists’ separation agenda.

“The bottom line is that both these hardline positions – one taking us outside the European single market and the other taking us outside the British single market – put at risk thousands of Scottish jobs and raise questions about how we fund our public services and the eradication of poverty.

“But there is a better, more progressive way forward for the Scottish people. New circumstances require a constitutional breakthrough that transcends the sterile standoff between a non-change conservative unionism and an unreconstructed nationalism, both of which would cause Scottish unemployment to rise.”

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Calling for a people’s convention for the UK, which, among other things, would look at replacing the House of Lords with an elected senate of the nations and regions, Mr Brown said he believed a nationwide discussion on the constitutional way forward would show that there was a better way forward for Scotland.

It could, he argued, unite the vast majority of Scots, perhaps even winning 70 to 80 per cent support and deliver the jobs, services and security the country needed.

“If we put the needs and aspirations of the Scottish people at the heart of this agenda – rather than the very narrow tests on Brexit that the First Minister has set – we arrive at a different set of considerations about what is best for the social and economic wellbeing of our country.”

He said a lasting constitutional settlement for Scotland should meet several tests: on how to deliver jobs and secure full employment; how to fund universal and high-quality public services; how to protect both social and economic as well as civil and political rights; how to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality; how to secure the country’s collective defence and security and how to best promote solidarity between Scotland and other nations.

A key part of Mr Brown’s speech was on how Scotland leaving either Union could destroy thousands of jobs.

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He said: “The reality is the Tories’ hatred of Europe – including their possible rejection even of the Norway option which would keep Britain part of the European single market while outside the European Union – blinds them to the costs of breaking an economic union with our mainland European neighbours and the risk in Scotland alone to 250,000 jobs and £11.6 billion of Scottish exports that are linked to trade with Europe.

“And the Nationalist desire for separation from England blinds them to the even greater costs of breaking an economic union with our southern neighbours, when far more jobs – one million – and exports worth £48.5 billion linked to trade with England and Wales are put at risk.”

The former premier noted how in 2014 the Nationalist leadership sought to reassure Scottish voters that, despite attempting to break the political union with the UK, the economic union, including keeping the pound, would remain intact.

“Post-Brexit, independence would mean Scotland and Britain were no longer part of the same single market. This would mean breaking not just the political union but the economic union with the UK and would force on to the agenda the question of the openness of the border between Scotland and England,” he explained.

Rejecting “no-change Conservative Unionism and out-and-out independence,” Mr Brown said it was time to “examine a way forward that offers a more innovative constitutional settlement, more federal in its relationship with the UK than devolution or independence and more akin to Home Rule than separation”.