Brown is smiling after Scotland voted “No” to independence.

From Washington to Madrid, there was a collective sigh of relief breathed around Western capitals when Scottish voters decided by a majority of 55% to reject the call for independence and remain part of the United Kingdom. For all those who did not want Scotland to secede, an unlikely hero had emerged in the form of Gordon Brown. The former British prime minister, whose 2008 London G20 Summit was a major turning point in staving off a global depression, disappeared from public view after his Labour Party lost the 2010 general election. 

Ahead of the September 18 independence vote, an opinion poll showed the “Yes” vote ahead, causing alarm bells to go off in Westminster, with all three UK national party leaders trooping north of the border to rouse support for the “Better Together” campaign. Their efforts were to little effect, however, for the Westminster establishment is distrusted in Scotland. But when that old and indisputably Scottish political heavyweight Gordon Brown entered the fray in the last days before the referendum, the tide seemed to turn.

In a series of intensely passionate speeches, Brown reclaimed Scottish patriotism from the nationalists. “The silent majority will be silent no more,” he declared, claiming that those thinking of voting for staying within the United Kingdom had as much right to be “proud of our Scottish identity” as the Saltire-waving nationalists.

Where the “No” camp had focused on negative campaigning by pointing out the economic uncertainties of independence, Brown recalled the common values, the shared sacrifice in war, and the social achievements that united Scots and others across the United Kingdom.

Brown pledged a fast-track devolution of more powers—over taxes, health and welfare spending—to the Scottish parliament. But this raises the prospect of more devolution in England and the exclusion of Scottish MPs in Westminster from voting on purely English issues. Ironically, in saving the union, Brown may have weakened Labour (which has some 40 Scottish MPs against the Consevatives’ one) as a UK-wide party.