Mr Brown insisted polling carried out for his pro-UK campaign project, Our Scottish Future, shows they are “moving closer together, not further apart”. The survey published today suggested people’s priorities were aligned on immigration, law and order, defence and the importance of more local decision making.
It found that 53 percent of independence supporters would feel “more warm” towards England if the country was represented by figures such Southgate and Rashford, rather than Boris Johnson’s government.
He said Rashford, the 23-year-old Manchester United striker and food poverty campaigner, and the England manager Southgate, represented values shared across the UK.
Writing in this week’s New Statesman magazine, Mr Brown cites Southgate’s “Dear England” letter published earlier this year, as an example of tolerance and equality.
Mr Brown said the findings made it harder for those in support of independence in Scotland and Wales to argue that there are significant differences from other parts of the UK.
He said: “It makes them more warm towards a better relationship with England.
“What you see is a change in the attitudes of people in Scotland, and that the image that Scots have been taught to have of England – full of toffs and football hooligans – is not the image that England really has.”
Mr Brown disclosed Rashford had met 400 children virtually in his former constituency of Kirkcaldy after he persuaded him to host an event in Scotland.
He added: “There was no sense of a Scottish English divide between the audience and him.
“He captivated that audience by the way he expressed what his aims were, what he had in common with them.
“Once the debate is actually about what you have in common, instead of what divides you, the atmosphere changes quite fundamentally.”
Mr Brown also criticised Mr Johnson’s ‘muscular unionism’ strategy, which involves the UK Government directly intervening in usually devolved areas and “hoisting more Union Jacks,” claiming it backed up the impression that people must choose between Scotland and Britain.
He said he feared the Prime Minister would divide the UK in an effort to win the next general election.
Mr Brown added: “That plays into the hands of Nicola Sturgeon who wants to fight the issue of Scotland versus Britain.”
The survey of 2,000 people in England, 1,000 in Scotland and 500 in Wales found that each nation identified making the NHS the best healthcare system in the world as their top priority.
Just 20 percent of Scottish respondents identified referendums on independence north of the border or in Wales as a top priority.
Only nine percent of Welsh respondents concurred.
SNP MSP Rona Mackay said: “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.
“If Gordon Brown wishes to contribute to the debate, he should start by upholding democracy not damaging it.
“And no amount of constitutional tinkering or devo max would protect Scotland from the likes of Brexit or a Tory power-grand – only independence will do that.”