Coffee House

David Cameron and the Union

6 April 2013

3:16 PM

6 April 2013

3:16 PM

Alex Massie asks why I didn’t mention the Union in my piece in this week’s magazine on what David Cameron’s legacy will be. It is a good question. Indeed, one former Cameron aide told me that he thought that the likely preservation of the Union would be Cameron’s greatest achievement.

But the reason I didn’t mention it was because Cameron’s strategy on Scotland has been to keep a relatively low profile. He has, deliberately, not made it his fight. He realised that Alex Salmond wanted to present himself as the opposition to an English Tory Prime Minister who was, in Nationalist-speak, imposing his will on Scotland—and has simply refused to play that role.

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Imagine how different things might look now if Cameron had declared that the Scots could only have a referendum at a time of his choosing. Or, if he had chosen to make the argument not that Scotland was better off in the Union but that it couldn’t survive on his own. Either would have given Salmond an opening. To this extent, Cameron is all too aware that he is the Admiral Jellicoe of this referendum campaign, the only man on either side who could lose it in an afternoon.

If the Unionist side triumphs in 2014, I expect that the plaudits will go not to Cameron but to Alistair Darling and the other Scottish Unionist politicians who Cameron has made way for. But, as Alex points out, the danger for the Prime Minister in this modest approach is that he won’t get the credit if things go right and will certainly get the blame if they go wrong.

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  • terregles2

    It truly beggars belief that a Government and Police Force who give us Paris Brown can actually suggest that Scotland needs to this three ring circus to govern them.

  • allymax bruce

    James Forsyth, & Alex Massie, you both miss the bigger picture with Scottish Independence; neither David Cameron, nor Alex’ Salmond, (in my opinion), view this as such a negative thing. Certainly Scotland do things very different from England, like Sovereignty, politics, philosophical & economic strategy, and absolutely so because we have always been ‘separate Nations, with different cultures. However, England, and certainly Scotland, would be much better off when Scotland is independent; two, inextricably geo-linked Nations, with a good neighbour relationship in common, MUST separate as States, to consolidate as separate geographical & economical powerhouses in Europe. You both really are behind the times. It’s the 21st century guys, get with the new game!
    Scotland MUST be indpendent in 2016, for the ‘British’ Isles to grow to become stronger in the face of an ever-encroaching EU. The ‘City’ definately wants scotland to be Indpendent, and so does the Conservatives. As far as labour are concerned, they have sold their soul to the International Zionist devil, and now they will be wiped-out in Scotland, and in England will have to come back begging to the ‘Privateers’ of the ‘City’ to be allowed back into the ‘Westminster club’. Spectaor journalism; so last century!

  • Alan Eastwood

    Mr Forsyth. Do you take orders from Cameron. There was absolutely no reason why you could not mention the Union. For once be your own man and stop being the mouthpiece of Number 10

  • the viceroy’s gin

    What the English think of Scots:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxQNKc1K00s

  • Hellen

    Devolution is the legacy of the EU, it tried so very hard to destroy us, but did not, or I should say will not. However when the EU falls the UK will be a little more fragile as an English parliament is sure to follow. This could however make us more stronger.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Look at those two; the Stan & Ollie of British politics

    • Hexhamgeezer

      .with apologies to Stan Laurel

    • Colonel Mustard

      Prince Charming and Shrek…

  • http://twitter.com/bbcgoogle Rockin Ron

    ‘But the reason I didn’t mention it was because Cameron’s strategy on Scotland has been to keep a relatively low profile.’

    But it doesn’t follow from that that, James, you should folllow Cameron’s intentions. Whatever happened to independence of thought? I think the Westminster lobby have increasingly shown they have gone native and don’t hold politicians to account. That’s what you get if you have teenagers running the show.

    By the way, you can bet your life that Cameron will claim it as his victory if the Scots Nats lose the referendum.

    Is it too much to ask that you at least try to analyse the situation instead of just bouncing it on as received from the PM’s spin machine? A political journalist is supposed to emply critical faculties. What you are doing is not reporting really, it’s more like retweeting.

    • Hookeslaw

      Cameron has flushed Salmond out to declare his referendum.
      The campaign has not started yet and I imagine all tories will be campaigning for the union when the time comes – the only people I see around here wanting an independent Scotland are UKIPers which just shows they are an English National Party in disguise.

      • Smithersjones2013

        You do realise that you are the only poster who has mentioned UKIP? You really do need some professional help in dealing with your obsession. You are beginning to sound like a stalker thats entering the deranged phase.

        There is nothing in any of the posts that indicates anyone is from any specific party let alone UKIP

      • http://twitter.com/MisterQuintus Tony Quintus

        Farage has repeatedly come out in favour of the Union and has made his feelings on the SNPs case for independence quite clear.
        I think you should read an article or two before you open your mouth, like say this one from february
        http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/interview-meet-nigel-farage.1361425603

  • the viceroy’s gin

    “Imagine how different things might look now if Cameron had declared that the Scots could only have a referendum at a time of his choosing. Or, if he had chosen to make the argument not that Scotland was better off in the Union but that it couldn’t survive on his own.”

    .

    You mean, imagine how different things might look if Dave did re Scotland what he’s currently doing re the EUSSR?

    You’re hitting on the reasons Dave is history, soon. He’s a gormless political hack.

  • http://twitter.com/NiceTeaParty NiceTeaParty

    Cameron is a Unionist through and through.

    A European Unionist who refuses to even start ‘re-negotiating’ the repatriation of powers from Brussels,

    A Scottish Unionist who like his forefathers in 1707 sold their national birthright down the river for a gold sovereign of two.

    He may wish to appear the Trident wielding British Statesman

    But he fails to do what he was elected to do.

    Answer the West Lothian Question and Bring Democracy Home

  • alexsandr

    why cant us english have a say?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      You had it. You elected Dave, and his buddy Clegg. Congratulations.

      • Barakzai

        What, ‘we’ should’ve opted for 5 more years of the Mad Hatter and his Balls? Hardly!

    • Austin Barry

      For the same reason we can’t have a say on the EU, immigration and welfare: we’re ungrateful, frightful, knuckle-dragging oiks whose continuous bleating is annoying and tiresome to our political masters.

      • terregles2

        You are having a say on Europe in 2016. You will be able to vote to leave the EU or stay in when you vote in your referendum 2016.

        • Russell

          The only way we will get a referendum is if either UKIP win the next general election with a majority (not going to happen), or if Cameron & co. get so terrified of the threat to many of their MP’s from UKIP standing against them and diminishing their votes, that Cameron passes legislation for a referendum to happen in the next parliament (not going to happen as Labour will oppose allowing the electorate a vote with the LibDems) and Labour get decimated with the Tories getting a majority and have to hold a referendum.

        • Smithersjones2013

          Oh dear not another one still deluding themselves that the miracle will happen and somehow Cameron will return to Downing Street this time without the Libdems in tow. There will be no Tory victory and there will be no referendum.

          • http://twitter.com/MisterQuintus Tony Quintus

            Where did you get your crystal ball? I don’t see Millishambles doing anything which will get him elected, the Lib Dems are going nowhere but down and UKIP are taking votes from all sides.
            Nobody knows who is going to win the next general election right now, it is a beautiful thing to see MPs living in fear.

          • Charles

            If people of your ilk (I assume) vote Tory instead of UKIP there might be a decent chance of a Tory victory.

            Voting UKIP is the fastest way to guarantee there won’t be a referendum

          • Hookeslaw

            How pathetic. You by your entire attitude seek to perpetuate your prediction.
            Vote tory to get a referendum and vote UKIP to get a europhile labour govt.

            Your bigotry blinds you to reality.

    • terregles2

      Why would you have a say in another country choosing to be Independent? It is up to all the people living in Scotland to say if they want to be governed from Westminster or leave the union and govern themselves from Edinburgh.
      Just like the people in the Falklands recently voted on their future. It was up to them and nobody else.
      If England were to choose to be independent it would be up to all the people living in England to vote to be independent no other country should have a say. Just like when the UK votes YES or NO to the European union we would not expect the French or any other European country to vote in our UK referendum.
      There is nothing to stop a political party forming in England that makes English Independence their main issue. If a majority of English people voted for them then England would become Independent. That’s what the SNP did in Scotland. We are lucky that we all have democracy.

      • Andy

        Well do tell us why Scottish MPs in the House of Commons STILL have a say in purely English matters ?

        • terregles2

          They still have a say because Westminster governs Scotland. If Westminster collect all the tax from Scotland make most of the decisions for Scotland then obviously Scottish people must be represented in Westminster.
          Regarding only English matters it does not seem fair, There again English MP’s take big decisions that affect Scotland such as going to war and Trident missiles.
          I think it will be fairer for you when Scotland is Independent. England will get rid of all the Scottish MP’s from westminster which will be fairer for our countries. It will help both our countries to be more democratic which can only be a good thing for both of us.

          • Andy

            You did not read what I wrote. I said why do Scottish MPs have a say in PURELY ENGLISH MATTERS ????

            To put it bluntly no Scottish MP should have any say whatsoever on any matter which is devolved to Scotland in England. That means Health, education etc. So butt out of our affairs. Please write to your MP and ask for an undertaking that he will not vote or take part in any debate on a matter which is devolved and thus does not effect you.

            Scotland is actually over represented in Westminster.

            • terregles2

              Calm down Andy you are coming across as really aggressive. I completely agree with what you are saying. Scottish MP’s should not vote in matters that have been devolved.
              Why should I write to my MP when it is a matter that only affects England. It is none of my business.
              You should write to Ed Miliband and demand that he stops any Scottish MP’s voting in devolved English affairs.
              if I were English I would campaign hard to make Miliband stop his MP’s from voting.
              If I had my way I would remove all Scottish MP’s from Westminster that is why I am voting for Scottish Independence.
              Hopefully both our countries will be more democratic in the future.

            • Russell

              Westmininster also is over represented by Scottish Labour MP’s sitting in English constituencies. Almost every screeching voice from the labour opposition bench whining about a non existent ‘bedroom tax’ and a ‘granny tax’ (misrepresenting, lying and spinning) comes from a scotchman or woman.

              • terregles2

                I am surprised that you refer to Scottish people as Scotchman or woman. Scotchman is normally used as a derogotary term I thought with you living in Aberdeen for 30 years you would have picked up on that.

                • Russell

                  It is as a result of suffering years of verbal abuse and some physical abuse that I now take great pleasure using derogatory terms which I know upset scotchmen. I want nothing more than Scotchland to get Independence and for all the scotch immigrants living here in England to be re-repatriated.

                • terregles2

                  It must be sad to go through life with such anger and hatred. I just hope that you are not too nasty to any of your non English neighbours.

                • Russell

                  On the contrary, I am extremely happy enjoying life in England in a small town, being part of a significantly English majority of residents. I get on extremely well with all my neighbours and it is a pleasure to walk about town without being called an English ba***rd or assaulted for speaking English. I can assure you that all the people I know here would vote for Scotchland to get Independence if a vote were to include the English.

                • terregles2

                  I suppose if you throw out all the Scottish people living in England it will leave you more room for the Eastern Europeans due to arrive next year so getting rid of the Scots would help with that situation.
                  You have really opened our eyes Russell we never realised that the Scots were hated quite so much by some of the English people.
                  Never mind it will not affect my friendships with all my lovely English friends and relatives.

                • Russell

                  My experience of Eastern Europeans is far more positive than my experience with scotch in Hagisland, having spent some years working and living in FSU (Former Soviet Union) countries. I certainly wasn’t verbally or physically abused by them whilst being in their country, unlike in scotchland. I hope you and your lovely English friends living in scotchland vote for Independence and succeed, I will volunteer to help build the wall and contribute to its costs.

                • terregles2

                  My goodness 30 years working in Scotland then more years working in FSU you have had a varied working life.
                  I am so pleased that you would like to replace all the Scottish people living in England for the incoming East Europeans. I am sure a fine upstanding fellow like yourself will welcome them all with open arms.
                  The East Europeans are truly blest.

                • allymax bruce

                  2 g’s in Haggis.

                • Russell

                  Just testing. Also in bu**er off!

                • terregles2

                  Now now Russell no need for bad language. You seem to have a bit of a temper.

                • Russell

                  It used to be known as humour, something you are obviously missing as a dour scotchman. Billy Connelly is the only funny thing to come out of scotchland.

                • terregles2

                  Don’t fret Russell you have given us plenty to chuckle at while we were reading your tall tales of abuse. You are hilarious.

                • Russell

                  Hilarious is a grown man walking about in a tartan skirt with no underpants on thinking he looks manly!
                  The church is not alone in having men in frocks with silly hats.

                • terregles2

                  Well let’s face it Russell not every nation can turn out such sensible and impressive costumes as England does with their Morris Dancers.

                • Russell

                  For probably the only time on this blog, I agree with you.
                  Luckily their equally silly outfits are only worn by Morris Dancers, not by a large part of the population for weddings/funerals/parties/Rugby matches/football matches and almost every other occasion, when they cheerfully turn up wearing frocks.

                • terregles2

                  Think the reason they wear the kilt is because it attracts women. My nephew wore the kilt to a wedding in the USA and his sporran was filled with phone numbers from women who thought he looked fantastic. Like you Russell I can’t see the attraction but lots of women seem to love it. Strange indeed.

                • allymax bruce

                  Ha !
                  Touche.

                • terregles2

                  Think he would have noticed how to spell haggis as he did live in Scotland for 30 years.

              • terregles2

                Every screeching voice that is whining is a Scotchman or woman. Good heavens Russell if we didn’t know that there is no anti Scottish feeling in England we might get the impression that you do not like Scottish people.

          • allymax bruce

            you will never know how literally correct you are when you stated, “because Westminster governs Scotland.”
            But not for long!

            • Russell

              Please let it be.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

          Scots MPs are the reason Student tuition fees were introduced in England and still have their own Cabinet representation which England does not

          • terregles2

            Tuition fees were introduced in England because the Westminster government thinks it is more important to squander billions on Trident missiles and on Iraq and Afghanistan than in looking after its citizens.
            The UK is so badly governed by Westminster they waste all our resources on the wrong things. Hopefully Scotland will soon have control of the wealth it produces and stop sending it to the wasteful Westminster.

      • alexsandr

        Scotland was never a colony of England, they entered into an act of Union. Both countries agreed to this union. therefore both countries should have a say whether it is dissolved.

        • terregles2

          Well a marriage is an act of union and I don’t think anyone would suggest that a marriage cannot be dissolved unless both parties agree.

          Also nobody would suggest that any business could not leave a partnership with another company unless both parties agreed. That would be untenable

          Imagine if a majority in Scotland voted for Independence and a majority in England voted against it or vice versa.

          That would in effect mean that the Scotland and the Scottish population would be disenfranchised.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

            The danger in Scotland is if certain regions vote for independence and others do not, you might have a Six Counties problem

            • terregles2

              Six counties problem? Think you are more likely to get that in England if some regions vote to be out of Europe and some vote to stay in.

          • allymax bruce

            The Act of Union is a legally binding contract, that by ‘Dissolution’, will be dissolved. Not a Spirit-of-God Marriage!
            Anyone that has been Married with children, knows it’s impossible to ‘dissolve’ the Marriage!

        • Hookeslaw

          How can both counties have a say if it is dissolved? If the Scots say yes and the English say no then Scotland does become a colony.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            You mean… like Ireland?

      • Charles

        If Scotland wants to be independent that’s up to them.

        If they want to remain part of the UK on different terms (i.e. devomax) the English should have a say in that as well as just the Scots.

        • terregles2

          I agree that Independence is a choice for everyone living in Scotland and nobody else.
          Regarding Devomax that is something only the Westminster government has control over. David Cameron has refused to grant Devo max and at the moment David Cameron is in overall control over Scotland,
          It is unlikely that Devomax will ever be on offer to Scotland as it would mean that Westminster would lose control of Scottish revenue and they are never likely to give up Scottish resources.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Devomin for England would be nice. We are also governed by Westminster, by a parliament full of Scotsmen many of whom are socialists and former communists. Imagine if you had Tory MPs from Kent and a Dutchman voting for tuition fees in your Scottish parliament.

            • terregles2

              Devomin for England. What on earth is stopping you having it ? No point in whinging and then doing nothing about it.

              A few years ago the SNP did not share much of the Scottish vote but they rolled up their sleeves put forward their manifesto and campaigned hard. They are now the leading political party in Scotland.
              There is no reason on earth why England cannot form a political party and campaign for English Independence, The rest of the United Kingdom would wish England well if it voted to be Independent. We would prefer it if you all got on with it rather than the constant moaning and feeling sorry for yourselves.

              Imagine if Scotland had Tory MP’s from Kent voting on Scottish matters. We don’t need to imagine it we already have it..We have Tory MP’s from all over England voting to force Nuclear weapons on a highly populated area of Scotland. English Labour and Tory MP’s forced us into the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. English MP’s moved the Scottish Maritime border up from Berwick to Carnoustie. You are lucky it is only Tuition fees that have upset you.

    • Smithersjones2013

      For the same reason that when someone wants a divorce the other person cannot refuse to let them go.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

      Because the cow never gets asked when it is to be milked

    • Drew Edward

      I didn’t hear anyone in England complain they didn’t get to vote in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the 2002 Gibraltar referendum or the 2013 Falklands referendum. In particular, the Good Friday Agreement allowed non British citizens in the Republic of Ireland to decide on constitutional matters affecting governance in the UK, the sort of thing that usually sends sections of the British press into mass hysteria.

  • Jebediah

    According to your reasoning Cameron’s best outcome is neutral, he doesn’t get the credit and Scotland stays in the union. In which case there is no “danger” as there is no other choice.
    As for Scotland, I hope it stays in the union, half my family are Scottish I don’t want us to be foreigners. So I have a stake in the outcome. I think the most powerful and true argument for the union is: Cyprus your face here. Do Scots think Cyprus has more power (any power) in the European Union as a small indebted state, than Scotland has in the United Kingdom, where they can pretty much do as they please already?

    • terregles2

      Most Scots have family and friends in England and being Independent would not make them foreigners.
      I have family in Southern Ireland and I certainly don’t feel like a foreigner in Dublin.
      You say the Scots can do as they please within the UK. Well not really. We had no control over having Trident or going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.There are many important policies we have no control over.
      If Scotland is independent our two countries will continue as friendly neighbours the only difference will be that we vote for our government in Edinburgh and you will vote for yours in Westminster. Not much else would change.

      • Andy

        So you mean there will be less anti-English racism in Scotland ?

        • terregles2

          Well I have asked my English friends living in Scotland about any anti English experiences and they have not had any. Indeed they have found Scoltand less racist than where they lived previously. I am sure we all abhor racism wherever it exists.
          A vote for Independence is a vote against English government not against English people.
          No doubt there are a few stupid Scottish people who say they dislike the English just as there are a few stupid English people who say they don’t like the Scots fortunately these stupid people are in a minority.

          • Russell

            lived in Aberdeen for more than 30 years being racially abused every week and actually assaulted twice for simply speaking in English, More racism in Aberdeen against English than any other race. Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness do not have the same problem with getting on with the English.

            • Jambo25

              Sorry, I don’t believe you. Why would you have gone on living in Aberdeen, under those circumstances, unless you were some kind of masochist.Incidentally, neither my English wife nor any of my English friends have ever had the experiences you describe inflicted on them up here an they’ve lived up here for over 30 years. On the other hand I’ve been insulted due to my nationality a number of times down in England and I was actually assaulted a couple of times. I wouldn’t claim that it was a ‘normal’ experience or I simply would no longer visit the country.

              • Russell

                I had to continue living there as that was where my work was based. Im pleased that your wife and your English friends escaped the nasty side of Scotland (Aberdeen) and the racism/hatred of English which I did experience. Following early retirement due to a broken back suffered during an attempted break-in at my flat in Aberdeen by a junkie, I moved back to England thank God, and I am now enjoying retirement where I have never seen or heard Scottish people who live here insulted.

                • terregles2

                  Are you seriously saying that there are no English people living in England who dislike Scottish people. Are you seriously saying that there are no racist English people?

                  I have friends who originate from outside of the EU and they moved to Scotland because they were suffering from such racism and abuse in England. They feel safer in Scotland. What does that prove? Nothing at all. There are good and bad racist and non racists everywhere.
                  One thing we do know for sure Scottish people who will be voting YES to independence are voting against government from England and not against English people.

                • Maidmarrion

                  I don’t believe you either ,being an Aberdonian with RP I could easily be mistaken for one of the less fortunate folk in the UK ,but never have I met anti English feeling and neither have any of the many truly English folk I know.
                  When folk say they have suffered anti English racism I tend to think they should look in the mirror and examine themselves – would they be an obnoxious ,arrogant ar$ehole in anyones book?

                • Jambo25

                  Well, I was obviously imagining it back in the 60s when a friend and I were attacked on Highbury Fields and called Scotch c.nts etc while we were being attacked. I was obviously imagining it when I got similar treatment in Didsbury in Manchester, in the 70s. My friends who’ve had the odd bit of similar treatment were obviously imagining it, during the 80s and 90s. My son and a couple of friends who get some rather nasty treatment now, are obviously delusional as well.

                  Incidentally, I still don’t believe you. I’ve got English friends who work in the oil industry and live in Aberdeen city and Portlethen and they have had no bother at all over several decades. I’m sure some English people have had bad experiences up here. After all, we have our loonies as well. I just don’t believe your hysterical nonsense.

            • terregles2

              Sorry to hear you have had problems I have lived in many places in Scotland and never encountered any anti English rubbish. My cousins in England were abused for being Scottish but unfortunately idiots are everywhere and that does not mean that English people are anti Scottish.
              I hope that throughout your 30 years of abuse you reported it to the police as racism is an offence and would have been dealt with

              • Russell

                I do not regard Doric as English!

                • terregles2

                  If they were speaking Doric I am surprised that you knew that they were being nasty.
                  I have never been able to understand anything that I have heard spoken in Doric.

          • Smithersjones2013

            A vote for Independence is a vote against English government not against English people.

            And that would last about as long after the vote for independence as it took for the politicians on both sides to start posturing over the division of national assets and liabilities. Just like a divorce when it gets down to getting the best deal for one or other of the two interests thats when the trouble will start. Divorces are rarely amicable by the end……..

            • terregles2

              Many divorces are amicable and many countries become independent without any animosity.
              Norway and Sweden separated in 1905 without too much bother and there is no reason to suggest Scotland and England would not do the same.

          • Daniel Maris

            How could it be a vote against “English” government. It’s a union of two equal sovereign powers – how could it be a vote against “English” government? The last 3 PMs have all had Scottish connections: Scots public schoolboy, a true Scot and a Scot by name. You sound a bit of a “constitutionally naive person” (that’s the polite version).

            • terregles2

              You are of course correct. I should not have said English government it is of course government from England as opposed to government from Scotland.
              You say that it is a union of two equal sovereign powers I am afraid that in Scotland we have not seen any evidence of that. We fought hard not to have nuclear weapons positioned in a highly populated area of Scotland. We still got them. Tony Blair in 1999 moved the English maritime border up from Berwick to Carnoustie. that means England now has 6000 square miles of Scottish maritime territory.We don’t really feel very equal in Scotland.

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