AS the fifth anniversary of the first referendum on Scottish independence approaches, the big players on either side are gathering for the feast. None will have cause to remember it more fondly than Gordon Brown. The former UK chancellor and prime minister should be lighting candles every day to the patron saints of referendums in gratitude.

Prior to 2014 Brown had been holed up in his own grim Valhalla brooding on his role in making a gift of his beloved United Kingdom to what has become the most right-wing Tory administration in modern times.

He could have been remembered as a very able chancellor were it not for his lust to usurp his former friend Tony Blair as prime minister. In those years when we thought he was devoting himself to the economy he was actually plotting night and day to the point of obsession to find ways of overthrowing Blair. Those Labour supporters who accuse Boris Johnson of an undemocratic power grab ought to remember that Brown simply annexed 10 Downing Street by literally driving out its democratically elected incumbent. Before then he had deployed one of the most rancid and intimidating spin operations Westminster has ever known to ensure no-one else within the party dared to stand in his way. At least the Tories had a lengthy and transparent leadership contest.

Brown’s wretched three-year tenure never recovered after he froze in possession of a winning hand at the start of his reign when he opted against calling a General Election. The 2008 banking crisis (which he might have been expected to see earlier from his previous vantage point) consumed his Government and his party suffered its biggest loss of seats at a General Election since 1931. By then he had already ceded much of his moral entitlement to be a Labour leader with his infamous British jobs for British workers call.

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His lack of judgment and unsuitability for the highest office handed the Tories a massive victory which has provided the bedrock of their years in power ever since. And his appeal to the base elements of Little England provided succour to those who, even then, were seeking moral inspiration for Brexit.

You might have thought that his public pronouncements since would have sought to repair the train-wreck of a legacy with which he left us. Instead, he seized upon the independence referendum and used it not to provide wisdom and reason but to exacerbate those divisions he purported to revile during that campaign. Towards the end of the referendum campaign his language and reasoning grew ever more incautious and feverish as he spread alarm amongst Scotland’s retired and elderly about their pensions. All too rarely was he questioned about his notorious pension stealth tax which reduced the value of retirement funds by billions after he removed tax credits on share dividends with his 1997 abolition of Advanced Corporation Tax relief. This, more than anything else, paved the way for many companies opting to wind up their final salary pension schemes. Milk-snatcher Thatcher, they once called one of Brown’s predecessors; but at least it was only milk.

And so, next month five years will have elapsed since September 18, 2014. Brown has resumed his inchoate onslaught on Scottish independence and as the date draws closer he will be joined by a cast of the usual suspects parroting the same dismal messages. Last week he once more chose to equate the movement for Scottish independence with the hard-right philosophy that drives Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and the scarecrow wing of the Brexit movement. At the Edinburgh Book Festival on Monday he personalised his attacks by dismissing Nicola Sturgeon as a “hard-line separatist” and the SNP as “extreme”. He and others continue to infer that the desire for an independent Scotland must poison any future relationship with England. He said that we should be “promoting co-operation between Scotland and England within the UK”.

Brown and his acolytes must know that a second independence referendum is coming and that the Brexit he claims to oppose makes this a certainty. During the second campaign he and all those others who abandoned the Labour Party to its ignominious fate will take their cue from the old Tory hymn book and claim that the campaign is nasty and divisive. Yet, his increasingly unhinged hostility towards the concept of self-determination has already begun to poison the well. At what point does he admit to the distinct possibility of an independent Scotland and bring himself to assist in helping it through its early years? He is entitled to lament the passing of the United Kingdom, even though he knows it was never the natural resting place of a Scotland which flourished without it for the best part of two millennia.

Does there not come a time, though, when he may find it within himself to speak positively about a country which formed him, educated him and provided generations of his family with the opportunity to make something of themselves? Does he really believe that nothing good can grow in Scotland unless it is nurtured within an English greenhouse? What a narrow and dismal outlook. And what of those among the Scottish Conservatives with whom Brown chose to make his alliances during the first independence referendum? Is their hostility to independence so ingrained that they will seek to damage the reputation of Scotland at a time when it will be seeking partnerships and support all around the world?

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On Sunday afternoon, along with thousands of other Scots, I cheered on Ben Stokes, England’s brilliant cricketing all-rounder, as he saved the Ashes with one of the greatest individual sporting feats ever witnessed on these islands. If Scotland decides to make its future outside of the United Kingdom, England will gain a very close and supportive ally and lose merely a junior partner in an artificial arrangement that has simply run its course. Many of us will still cheer on mighty Ben Stokes and enjoy England’s wonderful art and culture. We’ll welcome them as migrants and invest in their companies and their tourism; we’ll come to their aid in times of mortal peril as we always have done.

When the dust has settled and the campaign rhetoric has been exhausted, we’ll support each other’s economies. At this moment, though, it’s not Scottish nationalists who are damaging any future arrangements with England but those like Gordon Brown who seek to rescue their broken legacies by fuelling divisions that exist only in their overwrought imaginations.