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David Cameron’s tricky role in the fight against Scottish independence

7 February 2014

9:24 AM

7 February 2014

9:24 AM

David Cameron will tell Scots this morning that the UK wants Scotland to stay a part of the Union. That he’s giving this speech at all is being read in some quarters as a sign that he’s at least underwhelmed by the show put on so far by Better Together leader Alistair Darling. The PM’s intervention certainly marks a change of tone from the most recent speeches, particularly Mark Carney’s, which George Osborne praised as a very good ‘technical’ speech. Thus far the ‘no’ campaign has relied more on the technical argument which Alex Salmond has brushed away as minor objections to the great principle of independence. So Cameron is making the emotional case.

In this week’s Spectator, Alex Massie argues that this emotional case is far more powerful:

They do have one powerful card to play: Britishness. The SNP do not, in fact, want to talk about losing this identity — at least, not openly. Perhaps because, despite everything, Britishness still has a surprising appeal: Scots cheered Jessica Ennis at the Olympics as a countryman. Andy Murray draped himself in a Union flag at Wimbledon last year. This is still the country of Shakespeare and Burns, Dickens and Scott. What unites us — in culture, politics and temperament — is far greater than anything that divides us. Salmond argues that England should prefer a good neighbour to a ‘surly lodger’, forgetting that many Scots do not think themselves mere lodgers in Britain. It is their home.

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And that’s exactly the card that Cameron will play today. Speaking in the Olympic park, he will say:

‘For me, the best thing about the Olympics wasn’t the winning. It was the red, the white, the blue. It was the summer that patriotism came out of the shadows and into the sun. Everyone cheering as one for Team GB. And it’s Team GB I want to talk about today. Our United Kingdom.’

But as Alex observes in his piece, the emotional pull of he nationalist cause makes the ‘no’ campaign’s job much, much harder. And Cameron’s own role in that campaign is a tricky one, too: he is speaking today but didn’t want to drive his message home by popping up on the Today programme too. Instead he sent Labour’s Tessa Jowell to soften the Tory blow.

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Show comments
  • Conway

    To be honest, if Cameron was telling me to do something, my first instinct would be to do the opposite.

  • AtMyDeskToday

    Dave has certainly clinched it for me, I’m voting yes.

    • Colonel Mustard

      You were always voting yes. Bloody get on with it and spare us.

      • AtMyDeskToday

        Why thank you colonel, how jolly decent of you, I’m looking forward to it.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Is the Spectator becoming the equivalent of Sky News (the media outlet where political bimbos seem to get employed?)

    They do have one powerful card to play: Britishness.

    Well let’s see what the 2011 census says about people’s attitudes towards ‘Britishness’.

    Some 37.5 million so called ‘British’ citizens, that is approximately 71% of the total do not identify themselves as being ‘British’ at all.

    Over 32 million people in England (60% of the inhabitants and over half the UK’s population) describe themselves ‘English Only’. Only around 10% of those living in England who identify themselves in anyway as English identify themselves as in some way British as well. Therefore one can conclude from those figures that 86% of the ‘English’ do not consider themselves British. Similarly the Welsh figure is 85% not British.

    Somehow I think Alex Salmond and his people can find a form of words around that to not just dismiss but ridicule any emotional argument based around ‘Britishness’

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census/key-statistics-for-local-authorities-in-england-and-wales/rft-table-ks202ew.xls

    At best we are only British when we’re winning (as in the Olympics). When the glory fades Home Nations rule.

    Next strawman Tory argument please (they are so crap at this!)……

    • Conway

      I have to admit that, having spent three years at a Welsh university having it drummed into me that I’m a second class citizen because I do not live in Wales, I no longer consider myself British. I’m English (Saesneg) despite my Welsh ancestors.

  • BarkingAtTreehuggers

    “Speaking in the Olympic park, he will say…”
    We don’t care what he says in Olympic Park – we need to see him deliver this with the Glens as a backdrop, secured like an Obama behind glass, protected and screened from real people. It is too early for that. The situation is not yet dire enough, the part where he will be seen begging the Scottish people to stay is yet to come. All we need is patience and our smartphone cameras at the ready.

  • asalord

    Cameron gives a patronising speech about Scottish independence to a hand-picked audience in England.
    Says it all.

  • BarkingAtTreehuggers

    I have posted the comment below elsewhere but it is appropriate here as it connects the Scotland issue with the UKIP saga.

    Camerons game plan is clear, this is how it will play out:

    (1) May 2014 — UKIP maximises the vote at EU elections, leading to (2) September 2014 — Scottish independence, leading to a reduction of Westminster seats to 600 odd, which will lead to (3) May 2015 — a deal between UKIP and Tories (prior to the elections) allowing to minimise the effects of a vote split and hence a UKIP/Tory coalition (!)

    The entire thing is in the bag. The Camorons will sell Scotland in return for power. Queue UlyssesReturns/LadyDingDong/The Colonel et al for a lecture on moral superiority.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Kindly refrain from putting word(S) in my mouth you bounder. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and to express it. The only lectures on moral superiority here are given by the Labour party online trolls who monitor the site.

      • BarkingAtTreehuggers

        I have said this before but it appears you require me to repeat it: Labour are not in the picture here. No one cares about Labour. No one is linking the Labour position to that of independence. At least so far no one here is. So why would I possibly care what Labour think? This is not about Labour. YOU want everything to be about Labour, even things that are clearly not. That is the troll part of your existence everyone on this blog will have to live with, won’t we?

        • Colonel Mustard

          What an extraordinary fellow you are. You refer to me with a snide little remark about something I might or might not do and then when I object you berate me at length for an argument I have not even made.

          And it is all about Labour. We are where we are with Scotland because of them, whatever silly theories you might subscribe to.

          You might be all ears but there is not much between them.

          • BarkingAtTreehuggers

            This is what your great leader is capable of.
            http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/files/2014/02/Cameron-velodrome-432×288.jpeg

            Drawing in the crowds is he? You are so toast and you don’t even know it.

            • Colonel Mustard

              Carry on Cameron – most amusing!

            • Mynydd

              I clicked on the link, nice photograph,

          • Mynydd

            We are where we are with Scotland because of Mrs Thatcher and her poll tax which fed into the SNP propaganda that London and particularly the Conservative party have a down on Scotland. You can trace the Conservative decline (down to the present one MP) from the time of the poll tax experiment in Scotland rather than in England.

      • Mynydd

        You don’t need to be a Labour party online troll to understand Mr Cameron’s calculations. At present the breakdown of Scottish MPs is: Labour 41, Lib Dem 11, SNP 6, Conservative 1. If I therefore make silly speeches to help the Yes vote, other parties will lose 58 seats and I will only lose 1, I’m in power for all time.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Maybe not, but you ARE an online Labour troll who in any given thread at any given opportunity bleats anti-Tory bile.

        • Makroon

          Ha-ha, is that the new, Labour-central preemption to “explain” why Darling’s “NO” campaign was so utterly inept?

  • Denis_Cooper

    If you want to preserve the Union, is it really a good idea to have a headline about
    “the fight against Scottish independence”?
    That is totally negative, and if I was Scottish it might make me feel that if you Tories are going to fight against our independence then I will join in the fight for it.

    • MichtyMe

      The positive is worse “the fight for Scottish dependence”

      • Denis_Cooper

        The Scots are not dependent now, that is a myth.

    • ButcombeMan

      Exactly, but that is Isabel being provocative or juvenile. One or the other.

  • MichtyMe

    Cameron has certainly chosen the right location to make his Britishness speech, Tower Hamlets,which self identified as the most British in the census.

    • Denis_Cooper

      Because although it is in England many of its residents don’t want to self identify as being English, and in some cases may even feel that they are not wanted as being English by the older English stock.

  • DavidL

    The Scots joined the Union in 1707 when they were facing the prospect of national financial ruin. They benefited from the industrial revolution and were active participants in the Empire – both as soldiers and as colonial administrators. At the same time they retained their own institutions – a separate legal system, Church, educational system – and thus their own identity. Now the Empire’s gone, and the UK is largely post-industrial, it is reasonable that they should ask themselves what benefit they derive from being the junior member of the Union, or whether they would be better off as an autonomous nation, as they were for centuries before the Act of Union. “Britishness” needs to mean more than a few Olympic gold medals. The question everyone needs to ask is, what, in a post-industrial and post-imperial age, does Britishness mean? Not only for the Scots, but also for the rest of us?

    • Ron Todd

      Getting the banks bailed out?

    • sfin

      That’s well argued – it’s posts like this that are making me rethink my position on this issue (that and the rather agreeable prospect of less socialist governments in the rest of UK!).

      I still, instinctively oppose it because of the EU’s involvement in the regionalisation of the UK and the fact that Scotland would be delighting Brussels – the break up of nation states into autonomous regions, answerable to the central technocracy, being the avowed (though far from overt) aim of the EU – Scotland would be the most autonomous EU region of the lot and set a benchmark for the other EU regions already in place (Wales, Northern Ireland and London being three others in UK with France and Germany already completely regionalised in line with the Maastricht treaty blueprint).

      If the UK was outside of the EU and Scotland wanted to go her way – I would say “Cheers, thanks for the last 300 years and the best of luck to you” – It’s the fact that this is yet another, underhand, EU salami slice that I can’t abide.

      • MichtyMe

        The flaw in your peice is the inappropriate use of “nation state” Whatever it is, the UK, is not a “nation state” perhaps just a system of governance, a dynastic conglomerate, a multinational state.

        • kyalami

          It certainly is a nation state. The Scots are no different to the Cornish or the people of Yorkshire. There is a bigger difference between the people in different parts of London than between people in the south and people in Scotland.

          • MichtyMe

            The distinct society that is Scotland has existed for over one thousand years, it is a Nation within bounds the oldest in Europe, as with England. They may not be states but are acclaimed as Nations by their peoples which is what determines their national status.

            • kyalami

              I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln who asked one day “How many legs does a horse have, if you call its tail a leg?”

              Acclaiming yourself a nation comes in the same category.

              • Smithersjones2013

                When one person claims themselves a nation then no that does not make a nation but when 85% or more (many millions of people) of those who can claim that identity do so(as the English and Welsh did in the 2011 census), then only a fool would denounce them.

                • kyalami

                  If you phrase the question correctly, you can get any answer you like.

            • sfin

              I don’t doubt that Scotland has existed (and continues to exist) as one of the world’s oldest recorded nation states (the act of union guaranteed it’s identity by making sure Scotland kept its own institutions).

              My point, in my reply to DavidL, is that Scotland would be dancing to the EU tune and that it will eventually lose its status as a nation state and become an EU region.

      • Ron Todd

        Might delight Brussels but not Madrid.If the vote is no Cameron has as good as promised ‘devo max’ which will go toward regionalisation without upsetting Spain. The value of a Cameron promise is another debate.

    • Makroon

      That is the PC BBC/Economist version of events – throw all the pieces up in the air and see where they land, because it won’t effect us, safe in our little protected BBC world.
      At the same time mindlessly repeating that Britain (and Scotland) should sign a blank cheque to the EU.
      ,

    • Conway

      I hate to say this, but that sounds like “the Scots have benefited from the good times, but now things aren’t quite so good, they want to be off”. I hope that wasn’t what you meant to imply.

  • ButcombeMan

    Why portray it is a “fight”?

    That is exactly the sort of immature “Braveheart” type language that Salmond uses.

    It is not a “fight”.

    The Scots will do what they will do. Most British people accept British identity, a minority of Scots do not.

    Most British people see the wisdom of keeping the Union. A minority of chip on shoulder Scots, do not.

    No need for Cameron to do over much in respect of the vote and deeply unwise of him to do too much at all.

    Personally, like a lot of the British people, I would be sad to see them go, especially as I have mixed Scottish/English heritage.

    If they do pick Salmond’s rabble rousing rhetoric over common sense, they will deserve their fate.

    I willl not be worrying, over much.

    Move along. nothing to see here. Don’t get over involved and certainly NOT in any “fights”.

    • monty61

      I’m sorry but some of us do see it as a fight, against small-minded, petty nationalism that seeks to divide a united people and break up one of the most successful places in the world. I want to be Scots and British – I don’t want the lesser status in the world that Salmond is dragging us towards. It IS a fight.

      • ButcombeMan

        Well yes, some do see it as fight, Salmond does,

        I am suggesting it is unwise to respond in the same tone. That is playing Salmond’s games.

        Should they go, the remaining UK will hardly be diminished, London will remain one of the most important cities in the world, Edinburgh will diminish as large financial institutions pull out and there is capital flight.

        It is a blind alley for Scotland. I hope they will be wise enough to see that, but we must not get too excited about it.

    • Jambo25

      Salmond has never used the vomit inducing emotional tosh that Cameron is spouting as I write this. Cameron brought up ‘Our Island Story’ in support of the Union. The book, by H E Marshall is described , on Amazon , as a history of ENGLAND up to the reign of Victoria. Bingo! The Tory view of the Union. England with some weird little Jockos, Taffs and Paddies tacked on.

  • Ron Todd

    Does the rest of the UK want Scotland to stay?

    • Tony_E

      I don’t see much concern for it either way.

    • Conway

      I sometimes think that if Salmond wanted independence he would have had a better chance of getting it by letting the English vote on it.

  • Denis_Cooper

    Best for Cameron to keep out it as far as possible, whatever he says or does will be represented in the worst possible light by the SNP and many Scots will accept what the SNP says about him because of their intense dislike of the Tory party.

    • monty61

      Sadly this is true. Scots have forgotten their history as a nation of outward-looking entrepreneurs and inventors, preferring to look inwards and to suck at the teat of the state – the Gnats have shamelessly played up to this.

      Not only that but Cameron is the very worst type of PM possiblein this situation, an upper-class, over-promoted scion of privilege, the most awful kind of Tory in Scottish eyes.

      A far bolder emptional case could be made – I must admit this Hadrian’s Wall business has me interested, I might just head up to that myself.

      • Denis_Cooper

        I don’t think the Scots have forgotten that history or have changed away from it any more than others in the UK to any significant degree, the main difference is that the traditionally anglocentric and increasingly eurocentric Tory party made itself more and more unelectable in Scotland and so left the field vacant for the left to occupy unchallenged.

      • MichtyMe

        I remember my history, Hadrian’s Wall, where servile Britannia ends and proud and free Caledonia begins.

    • MichtyMe

      After the Scots vote to reject dependency and to embrace self reliance and self government there may then be an opportunity for a patriotic party of the right with the confidence in the Scots people to do what all other nations do, govern themselves.

      • Denis_Cooper

        The Scots are not dependent now, that is a myth.

      • kyalami

        Of course. As the Scots head south they must remember to tip their caps and keep their lowly status. I don’t know of any Scots in England holding positions of responsibility, let alone rising to the heights of captains of industry or political leadership. Oh, wait, …

        • Wessex Man

          Then you are as blind as you are stupid.

          • kyalami

            Whoosh.

            That was the sound of sarcasm passing you by.

      • Makroon

        That won’t happen for decades.
        There will be a big southward migration of talented, enterprising Scots to Britain, US, Australia etc. as the parochialism and corruption of the Nat government start to bite.

    • Guest

      Thatcher, that’s what went wrong.

    • Makroon

      Well, it may be inconvenient for your UKIP tract, but it was Margaret Thatcher (a “real Conservative” and Farage heroine), who most displeased the Scots.

      • Denis_Cooper

        I’ve no idea why you should suppose that I am an admirer of Margaret Thatcher, I’ve written enough to the contrary.

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