GORDON Brown has claimed England is a more inclusive country than Scotland as he sought to dispel claims that the nations of the Union are drifting apart.

The former prime minister insisted people south of the Border are on average more egalitarian when it comes to embracing racial diversity after publishing new research from his Unionist think tank.

The study by Our Scottish Future sought to identify key commonalities between the priorities of Scotland, England and Wales – leading Brown to conclude that the nations of the UK are “moving closer together, not further apart”.

The ex-Labour leader insisted the results, which appear to show similar social attitudes across the UK, undermine the case for Scottish independence.

Announcing the research, Brown claimed both Holyrood and Westminster were run by “narrow nationalists” and condemned Boris Johnson’s brand of “muscular Unionism.

Seeking to dismiss notions of diverging social attitudes within countries of the UK, the former PM claimed the study suggests Scotland is not in fact more inclusive than England.

He said: “If people thought before that England was not as forward in diversity, equality, tolerance or indeed on inclusivity, that is dispelled by this poll. In fact the polling shows that England is more egalitarian than Scotland on the issues that we raised on colour. The idea that the three countries are moving apart is wrong.

“What is absolutely clear is that there has been a shift in British opinion over the past 20 years. A minority of people were saying 20 years ago that they thought that diversity was an essential part of being British or Scottish, Welsh or English. Now it is the vast majority who say it.”

Those claims were based on respondents being asked for their view on the statement “every citizen, irrespective of colour, has equal rights in our country”. In England, 82% of interviewees said it was important in making them feel proud to be English. In Scotland, the equivalent figure was 80%. However, a higher proportion of Scots (50%) said it made them feel very proud than English (47%).

The National: Gordon Brown says his think tank's new research undermines the case for independence Gordon Brown says his think tank's new research undermines the case for independence

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The research, carried out by Stack Strategy, was based on interviews with 2000 people in England, 1000 in Scotland and 500 in Wales.

Pollsters found each nation identified making the NHS the best healthcare system in the world as their top priority. Some 47% of respondents in Wales, 42% in Scotland and 41% in England identified the NHS as their number one issue.

A dignified retirement for older people, tackling climate change and fighting inequality were all also high on the list of priorities.

In an article for the New Statesman, Brown wrote: “Most respondents in each of the nations identified diversity, freedom, tolerance and equality as important to them.

“When it comes to values, there is across England, Scotland and Wales similar levels of support for equality and tolerance, and for diversity, with the same levels of support for giving priority to the NHS, good jobs and climate change,” the former prime minister said.

“In their values and choice of priorities, Scotland and England and Wales are moving closer together, not further apart.”

The former Labour leader also warned “muscular Unionism” of the Prime Minister was playing into the hands of Nicola Sturgeon.

“Describing the UK as ‘one nation’, he is abandoning the bigger idea – and better reality – that we are a ‘family of nations’,” he wrote.

“He wants to badge new Scottish roads and bridges as British as if hoisting more Union Jacks will make people decide they are only British and not also Scottish or Welsh.

“Once the champion of more powers for London, he now sees devolution outside London as ‘a disaster’ and – ironically for an avowedly small-state Conservative Party – its Internal Market Act and Shared Prosperity Fund override devolution in favour of bolstering a centralised unitary state run out of London SW1.”

Rona Mackay, an SNP MSP, commented: “Far from providing answers, Gordon Brown’s party remains a significant part of the problem. Scottish Labour’s continued denial of Scotland’s democratic right to choose an independent future in a post-pandemic referendum serves only to enable Johnson and his hard-Brexit zealots to inflict further damage on the people of this country.”