Gordon Brown has accused Labour's John McDonnell of falling into a "nationalist trap" over his position on a second Scottish independence referendum

The remarks from the former prime minister came after the shadow chancellor provoked anger among colleagues for saying Labour would not block a second vote if requested by the Scottish parliament or people.

In an article on Sunday, Mr Brown wrote that his party's role should be to stand up for Britain's economic interests, as he warned the country faced its greatest constitutional crisis since the 17th century over threats of a no-deal Brexit.

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"But a few days ago John McDonnell also fell straight into the nationalist trap," Mr Brown said. "Suggesting a Scottish parliament should not be frustrated by what he called the 'English parliament'."

Speaking about the prospect of a second independence referendum, Mr McDonnell said last week at the Edinburgh Festival:  "It will be for the Scottish parliament and the Scottish people to decide that. We would not block something like that. We would let the Scottish people decide."

Writing in The Observer, Mr Brown, who was prime minister between 2007 and 2010, added that three weeks into Boris Johnson's premiership "English nationalism is on the rise" and "unionism appears to be sleepwalking into oblivion in the UK".

He continued:  "Once admired around the world for an understated but comfortably unifying Britishness that was inclusive, outward-looking, tolerant and ultimately pragmatic, now presents an ugly picture: of bitter division, intolerance, introversion so extreme that it has sacrificed commons sense in favour of a dogmatic abandonment of its own best interests."

The former Labour leader wrote that Mr Johnson's recent visits to various parts of the UK have done nothing to dispel the impression that under him the world's most successful multinational state "is devoid of a unifying purpose powerful enough to hold it together and to keep four nationalisms - Scottish, Irish, English and also a rising Welsh nationalism - at bay".

Mr Brown, who is Scottish, also blasted the SNP, saying it is peddling what it claims is a progressive, pro-European Scottish nationalism while ignoring what he says are the hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk if Scotland leaves the UK.

He finished by saying that the ideals of an inclusive outward-looking Britishness "could not survive the divisiveness and chaos of a no-deal Brexit".

To prevent the rise of dysfunctional nationalism, Mr Brown said, "the first step is to stop no deal in its tracks".

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