A closer alignment on priorities among people across the nations of the UK undermine arguments for independence, former prime minister Gordon Brown has claimed. 

A poll conducted conducted by Stack Strategy for the former Labour leader’s think tank Our Scottish Future, identified key commonalities between the priorities of Scotland, Wales and England. 

Mr Brown, who was prime minister from 2007 to 2010, has said the nations of the UK are “moving closer together, not further apart” due to the apparent alignment in priorities. 

After speaking to 2,000 people in England, 1,000 in Scotland and 500 in Wales, the poll found each nation identified making the NHS the best healthcare system in the world as their top priority. 

Some 47 per cent of respondents in Wales, 42 per cent in Scotland and 41 per cent 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. 

The poll also found that just 20 per cent of Scottish respondents identified referendums on independence north of the border or in Wales as a top priority. Just nine per cent of Welsh respondents concurred. 

READ MORE: David Buttress: What country doesn’t want independence?

Mr Brown said the findings would make it harder for those in support of independence for either country to argue that there are significant differences from other parts of the UK. 

“Indeed, it contradicts their central argument for the break-up of Britain: that we cannot be Scottish and British or Welsh and British at the same time,” he said in the New Statesman on Thursday. 

“Most of us can feel comfortably at home with plural identities and found no difficulty waving the flags of St Andrew, St George’s and St David in June in support of Scottish, English and Welsh teams and then, come August, transitioning smoothly and naturally to supporting the Union Jack-waving GB Olympics and Paralympics teams.”  

The former PM’s arguments are unlikely to find support from supporters of either Scottish or Welsh independence. 

In Scotland, where the pro independence Greens have joined a coalition with the SNP, independence campaigners will point to a Parliamentary majority, secured at May’s election for a further referendum on leaving the United Kingdom. 

Though Plaid Cymru failed to win a mandate for its vision of holding a Welsh independence referendum, supporters of breaking away from the UK will no doubt point to other opinion polls that show support for independence at greater than nine per cent and research which suggest a core of Labour supporters could also back breaking ties with Westminster

Some of the former Labour leader’s arguments are similar in tone to those of first minister Mark Drakeford who has sought to emphasise the UK as a partnership between four nations. 

READ MORE: Drakeford on Brexit and 'shape of the UK' with Tortoise Media

Mr Brown went on to say the “muscular unionism” of the Prime Minister was playing into the hands of Scotland’s First Minister 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.” 

READ MORE: 'Muscular unionists a gift to Drakeford – and Welsh nationalism'

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.” 

Whether remaining together in a United Kingdom, or each nation setting its own course, the best way of achieving those priorities is for many central to the independence question.  

Additional reporting by Craig Paton, PA Scotland Political Reporter 

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