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Coffee House

David Cameron’s ‘unremittingly positive’ case for the Union

24 February 2014

9:03 PM

24 February 2014

9:03 PM

David Cameron says he wants the case that he makes for the Union and against Scottish independence to be ‘unremittingly positive’. Is it?

In an interview with BBC News, the Prime Minister said:

‘That’s my whole argument, which is go back to the big picture, and I think this family of nations is better off together. Not just is better off in the United Kingdom, but we in the rest of the United Kingdom think we’re better off with Scotland that we want you to stay. That argument is one that is unremittingly positive about the success of this family of nations and how we should keep this family together.

‘I choose to make a positive argument just as I choose to make a positive argument about the defence jobs in Scotland, and financial services jobs here in Scotland, about jobs in oil and gas. We’re better off, Scotland’s better off, we’re all better off if we have the backing of the United Kingdom, a top-ten economy, behind these great industries.’

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Though he was focusing on the positive case as part of his Cabinet’s visit to Aberdeen, the PM let his colleagues continue playing bad cop, with their warnings that the UK would miss out on the £200 billion worth of oil and gas that the revolution proposed in the report published today by Sir Ian Woods could unlock if Scotland became independent.

The PM’s ‘positive case’ still needs to include more of an appeal to hearts and minds, as well as the technical arguments that led to the ‘Yes’ campaign gaining a bit of ground last week. Michael Gove did a good job of that this afternoon, telling Sky News:

‘I regard myself as British. I was brought up in Scotland, I spent the first 18 years of my life here and I came back here after university to work. But I think that one of the invidious things about the independence debate is that it tries to force people to choose between being Scottish and British. I don’t think people should be forced to choose. I think you can have the best of both worlds.

‘My children were brought up and born in England but they love Scotland. They were here this weekend, meeting granny and grandad. Should it be the case that granny and grandad become foreigners, just because of a vote in September? I don’t think that would be right.’

It’s that balance, between warning about the consequences of independence and articulating a sincere desire for the Union to hang together, that the ‘No’ campaign needs to strike.

There’s also a challenge for Cameron in every intervention that it doesn’t give Alex Salmond yet another chance to turn the independence debate into a row between Scotland and the unpopular Conservatives. Focusing on the positive, emotional case for the Union is one way of undermining Salmond’s charge that the ‘No’ campaign is made up on Etonian bullies in Westminster.

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