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.’


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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Show comments
  • drydamol1


    Peter Bone is being questioned under caution over a
    £100,000 benefit fraud involving Mrs’ Bone’s mum .No wonder he can afford to be
    court jester in the House of Commons mentioning Mrs Bone is many of his
    speeches .The Tories have more front than Blackpool .

    It is alleged that
    taxpayers’ money was used to fund her care after her assets were apparently deliberately
    concealed . The real figure for how much money the Bones cream off the
    taxpayer could actually be double that at £200,000. On top of Bone’s salary as
    an MP, Mrs Bone was paid between £45,000 and £49,999 last year. Meaning that
    between them the Bones are raking in more than £100,000 from the taxpayer a
    year, on top of the £100,000 Mrs Bone’s mum allegedly

    swindled .

    Just another Tory Thief they have all Robbed the Public
    Purse ,their chairman Shapps used to commit fraud on the internet regularly to
    earn a living .They are not fit to lick someone on Benefits boots never mind
    pretend to be in Government .

  • abystander

    This is pathetic. When is the big wooze going to debate with Eck?

  • London Calling

    So Scotland wants to go it alone
    Seek the dark corners
    Of places unkown
    Stronger together
    Better united
    After all what was the fight for?

    The Union is strong ……..leave it be…………:)

  • Denis_Cooper

    “Mr Cameron indicated he would “absolutely” support Scotland’s EU membership, despite warnings that Scotland would struggle to rejoin the EU after independence.”

    But I doubt he would continue with that line if Salmond tried to dump Scotland’s share of the UK national debt onto taxpayers in the rest of the UK.

    • Tom Tom

      that was the reason for the Union first time around

    • abystander

      He has adopted that line, on the EU, precisely because Scotland need not take any of that debt.

      • Denis_Cooper

        Need it not, you think?

        So Scots can benefit from public spending funded by the borrowing, but need not feel that they have any responsibility for repaying any of the debt?

        Interesting letter in Scotland on Sunday this week, headlined:

        “Threat to walk away from UK debt shows moral bankruptcy”

        and ending:

        “What sort of foundation would that be for a brave new nation?”

        • abystander

          Well I see it thus.
          In the event of a Yes vote we can negotiate in good faith with nothing off the table and nothing agreed until everything is agreed.
          Or one party can try to close down negotiations before they start by saying we are the successor state, anything we say belongs to us.
          In the latter scenario they can hardly be surprised to be told, fine, then so does the debt.
          Two can play hardball.

          • Denis_Cooper

            Well I see it this other way.

            At present we have the Treaty of Union 1707.

            The SNP wants to terminate that treaty, including its Article XVI which is the foundation of the present currency union between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

            Of course it would be open to either party to propose that the currency union should be continued through a new treaty, and that is what the SNP has suggested.

            Equally it would then be open to the other party to say “no” to that proposal, and that is what would happen, and it is just as well that the position on this has been made perfectly clear to the Scots before they decide how to vote in the referendum.

            The refusal of the Westminster political leaders to contemplate a new treaty provision to continue the currency union which would otherwise terminate with the 1707 treaty has nothing whatsoever to do with the debt incurred by the UK government in the past to fund public spending, including in Scotland, and provides no excuse whatsoever for the SNP to threaten to walk away from a fair share of that debt.

            It would be inadvisable for the SNP to attempt to play hardball, given that between a third and half of the GDP of Scotland depends on exports and the present legal base for all of that trade would disappear if the Treaty of Union was terminated without new treaty arrangements being put in place beforehand.

            • abystander

              Well fine.
              The Scottish government wants to talk, the Brits it seems do not.
              But if rUK is the successor state in law, then, in law, it succeeds to the debt. All of it. The Treasury publicly recognised this a month ago.
              If rUK wants us to take some of the debt, we will talk, but the British side must give to. Our starting point is, none of that debt is ours. Just as their starting point is we cannot continue a currency union.

              • Denis_Cooper

                No, the Treasury has not “publicly recognised this a month ago.” The Treasury has reassured gilts investors that whatever happens as a result of your shenanigans in Scotland they will be repaid as promised. It has not said that the Scots will be let off paying their fair share towards those repayments, and why should it? Scotland has had the benefit of part of the public spending funded by UK borrowing, and so obviously Scotland should bear part of the responsibility for paying off the debt.

                “Our starting point is, none of that debt is ours” is total rubbish. You ate and drank on the joint tab, so you pick up part of the bill at the end of the meal. If you think that cheating on that would go unnoticed by the rest of the world you would find out differently when you tried to borrow yourselves and found that few trusted you.

                There is simply no connection at all between Scotland assuming its fair share of the accumulated UK debt and a continuation or not of the currency union presently based on the same Treaty of Union that you want to terminate – that YOU want to terminate, the referendum is in Scotland, nowhere else in the UK – and why would you want to do that anyway when barely five years ago Salmond was telling Spanish TV that being able to ditch the pound and adopt the euro was a very good reason for Scotland to become independent?

                • abystander

                  Did they provide this re assurance to the creditors secretly then?
                  Whose name is on the debt? On which door will the creditors knock?
                  Its not Scotland’s debt. Bluster, threaten, name call all you want but that is the position. A position the British have publicly acknowledged. They owe that debt.
                  Now if you want to talk about an equitable distribution of assets including the nationalised state bank and a currency which is as much ours as yours then we can get away from Osborne’s political campaigning and start real negotiation.

                • Denis_Cooper

                  The name on the gilts is that of the UK Treasury, and for as long as Scotland is still in the UK that means that it is in part Scotland’s debt, as of course it should be as part of the borrowed money was spent in Scotland.

                  No, the UK Treasury has not publicly acknowledged that it is not Scotland’s debt; as you seem to have either forgotten or misunderstood what the UK Treasury has said to gilts investors it was reported here:


                  and note:

                  “An independent Scottish Government would become responsible for a “fair and proportionate” share of current liabilities, according to a paper issued by the Treasury.

                  In the event of independence, a new contract would be needed between governments following extensive negotiations.

                  There would be no change to UK-issued gilts, or bonds.

                  “Instead, an independent Scotland would need to raise funds in order to reimburse the continuing UK for this share,” the Treasury paper states.””

                  The pound sterling is the currency of the UK, which the SNP wishes to leave; it is issued by the central bank of the UK, the Bank of England; the default position would be that the Bank of England would cease to be the central bank for Scotland if Scotland left the UK, and that could only be varied through a new treaty for a continuing currency union, which you have been told very clearly would not happen; the currency itself is not an asset which can be divided up, but the assets and liabilities of the issuing central bank could certainly be divided up, and I don’t think anyone elsewhere in the present UK would object to that happening; then the new central bank for Scotland could be given its share of both the assets and the liabilities of the Bank of England, or it could just be given about £340 million as its share of the net assets, the equity attributable to the UK Treasury as the sole shareholder, see page 54 in the Annual Report here:


                  Your problem is that you have been infected with the SNP’s delusions of grandeur, and have come to assume that everyone else in the world will dance to Scotland’s, or rather the SNP’s, tune. That wouldn’t happen; Salmond and Sturgeon may be big fish in the small pool of Scotland but out in the open seas they would be small fry. And that is not bluster or threats but just a statement of fact which should be obvious to any sensible Scot; fortunately there are many sensible Scots, and hopefully enough to prevail in September.

                • abystander

                  The point is, upon independence , Scotland will not be part of the UK. Now if , as you argue, the pound on that scenario ceases to be Scotland’s currency then the debt also ceases to be Scotland’s debt.
                  One cannot be simultaneously a non successor state and a successor state. Its one or the other. The British side chose to insist that r UK would be the unique successor state. Note that this was the position adopted by London, not Edinburgh. Not Salmond, not the SNP, not the Scottish government, but London.
                  Ergo if a newly independent Scotland is not, according to Cameron et al a successor state then how can it succeed to the UK’s debt?
                  I cannot. So negotiations begin from there.

                • Denis_Cooper

                  Successor state for what purposes?

                  For example it would be for the other parties to the EU treaties to decide whether they would accept the present UK minus Scotland as being sufficiently close to the present UK to be treated as still being a party to those treaties, succeeding the present UK notwithstanding its diminution by about 10% on various important measures and a possible change of name, and then only require some adjustments to voting weight, budget contribution, and number of MEPs and so on, which in all but one unimportant instance could be done without any change to the EU treaties, and even in that one unimportant instance the slight disadvantage of leaving the EU treaties as they stood would be to the continuing UK not to any of the other countries with which it was contracted.

                  So far there has been no indication from any EU member state government that it would object to the continuing UK being treated as the continuing UK and a continuing party to the treaties, while on the other hand you have been told very clearly that Scotland would not be treated as another successor state for that purpose, and indeed it could not become an EU member state without changing the EU treaties.

                  As for Scotland not succeeding to any part of the UK’s debt even though it was taken on in part to fund public spending in Scotland, those in the SNP who suggest that are dishonouring the rest of their nation even with the suggestion, and of course there would be no question of that being allowed to happen whether or not that there was a new treaty to continue the present currency union after Article VXI of the 1707 Treaty of Union had been terminated along with all the rest of that treaty, which is what the SNP wants.

                  Over the coming months the Scots will be repeatedly reminded that Salmond’s present pretended love of the pound sterling is in stark contrast to what he and the SNP have said in the past.

                  For example:


                  “CONDEMNING the pound as a “millstone round Scotland’s neck”, Alex Salmond yesterday stepped up the pressure to abandon sterling for the sake of Scottish business.

                  Speaking to the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels, the SNP leader insisted that sterling was costing jobs and that only as a member of the euro could Scotland realise its potential.

                  “Scotland’s interest involves joining the euro sooner rather than later. For many years now, the pound sterling has been a millstone round Scotland’s neck. Sterling is costing Scotland jobs and prosperity in manufacturing, agriculture and tourism.”

                  The SNP leader, who is also lobbying for Scottish banks to be able to print their own euro notes if the UK joins the single currency, said EU trade was vital to Scotland’s economy. …”
                  What a bloody hypocrite he is.

                • abystander

                  Yes, Salmond’s position on the Euro changed. So?
                  An entity is either a successor state for all or for no purposes.
                  Your point on rUK and the EU is a good one. rUK is desperate to be accepted as the sole successor state precisely to avoid being told its weighting vote in the EU has to change, or it is no longer a member of the UN Security Council etc.
                  Ok, we will not challenge that although it is challengeable and if we did challenge it others might be tempted to exploit any uncertainty that could create.
                  But you cannot have it both ways, and the instant you say all of the debt is not rUK’s, the successor state argument is weakened, probably fatally.
                  So the starting position is all the debt is rUK’s. That is where we start. If then the London govt links using the currency to taking a share of the debt then we can talk.

                • Denis_Cooper

                  “Yes, Salmond’s position on the Euro changed. So?”

                  So he’s a liar and a hypocrite. If he was an honest man, he would not now be telling the Scots that the best option would be to keep the pound, he would be telling them that really he wants to get Scotland into the euro as soon as possible. Which is undoubtedly true.

                  “An entity is either a successor state for all or for no purposes.”

                  Who says? Salmond, you, some higher authority?

                  It would perfectly possible for all the other parties to a treaty to say that they accepted the continuing UK as still being a party to that treaty, while one or more parties to another treaty objected and said that they saw the change to the UK as being too great for them to accept that it was still close enough to the country with which they had originally made the treaty.

                  And none of that is relevant to the fact that whatever some of the moral degenerates in the SNP may think Scotland would not be allowed to get up from the table and walk out of the restaurant before the bill came to avoid paying its share, the UK Parliament would never pass the Act to dissolve the Union on that basis.

                  “rUK is desperate to be accepted as the sole successor state precisely to avoid being told its weighting vote in the EU has to change … ”

                  If you knew anything about the EU treaties you would know that adjustment of the voting weights of the member states would not be a problem, it would not require changing the treaties, and of course there would be no question of the continuing UK expecting to keep the same voting weight as before.

                  “Ok, we will not challenge that … ”

                  Under the present EU treaties you wouldn’t be in a position to challenge anything at all within the EU; by leaving the UK you would have also left the EU as a natural and automatic consequence, as has been made perfectly clear to you, and it wouldn’t be any of your business what was agreed between the EU member state governments.

                • abystander

                  You think a change of opinion makes a person a liar and a hypocrite? Really?
                  Salmond is a man of integrity who has a closer knowledge of the Scottish people and a lifelong commitment to their well being which I cannot say David Cameron shares, day trips to Aberdeen notwithstanding.
                  Who says you cannot be simultaneously a successor state and not a successor state? Well logic. How can you simultaneously be a thing and its opposite?
                  Your analogy with a restaurant. If I sit down for a meal with you and you drink all the wine, I ain’t paying that part of the bill, my friend. Just to let you know.
                  Indeed you may be right that adjusting weighted voting in Council would not require a Treaty amendment. So all the easier then for Scotland to join and the rUK weighted vote to be adjusted downwards.
                  There is legal opinion, from those who have sat on the bench of the European Court of Justice, that either rUK and Scotland are successor states or neither are. But we will ignore that if we can get down to some pragmatic negotiation on the pound, debt etc.
                  Anyway, as a “moral degenerate” I think I will close this exchange in wishing you and my wife’s people a prosperous future.

                • abystander

                  Oh and by the way, these small fish seem a damned sight nimbler than your big fish.

  • Frank

    I am quite prepared to accept that Salmond is an utter s…e and that the devolved govt of Scotland is a very expensive form of crony rule; but if the Scots want independence, then let them have it. The blessing from an English point of view is that we will be rid of all the Labour MPs elected in Scotland to serve in Westminster. To be honest, this is incredibly appealing. What Scotland does after that is their business. If Iceland can manage, then Scotland certainly can.

    • abystander

      Crony rule?
      You mean Eton Tory boys and Bullingdon club pals trying to run Scotland from White’s Club?

  • anyfool

    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
    This is patent nonsense, people do not regard Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians as foreigners, look to the Irish Republic, you would never say you are going abroad if you went there for a weekend, it is just a weekend away.
    Scotland being independent will make no difference as to how we regard them.

    • Jambo25

      Virtually my entire family were, due to the mass emigration which was a ‘Union bonus’, American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand citizens. They weren’t foreigners, however, they were my family. Truly cretinous.

      • anyfool

        I think if you read my post I am in agreement with what you say, I am saying that is the case regardless of family.
        Hardly anyone who is indigenous to the UK considers any Old Commonwealth citizens as foreign.

        • Jambo25

          Sorry anyfool, I wasn’t disagreeing with you. I was offering my family history as back up to your point. It was Gove I was accusing of cretinism.

  • Tom Tom

    Why all the fuss ? Wilson’s 14 Points was supposedly a basis for equitable arrangements. The Irish Republic had its own currency pegged to Sterling, most of its trade with the UK and the right to vote in UK elections and stand for office in the UK. Scotland would be no different.

    • Denis_Cooper

      Scotland would be no different, or some of the more absurd arrangements with the Republic would be changed in line with more sensible arrangements agreed for Scotland. Eg, only the citizens of the continuing UK would be able to vote.

      • Tom Tom

        It is important to publish results by region of scotland so we can see the faultlines and compare them to the 1975 Referendum. There are for example Votes in recent years passed only by Scottish MPs as the majority such as on Tuition Fees

  • Tony_E

    I’m sure there is a positive case to be put forward for the Union, especially for Scots. But the problem is I haven’t heard it yet.

    I certainly haven’t heard a positive message that would appeal much to the English, but as with all matters over the last 17 years or so, England (especially outside of London, Birmingham and Manchester) doesn’t seem to be a priority to the government.

    Until the Unionist camp begins to make a good case for why we should be subjected to Scots will on matters which do not affect their constituents, there is no good reason for the English to accept devomax or even a continuation of the current situation. Any UK government which offers devomax without a massive change in the constitutional arrangement for the English should be thoroughly decimated at the ballot box.

    If Scots want more independence than they have now, then they must vote YES and have all of it, or they must face the real possibility of English revolt against the uneven democratic weight that it’s MPs hold, and no chance of extending it further.

    • Jambo25

      You wouldn’t be revolting against the Scots you would be revolting against the Westminster political class and you should do that regardless of the September result.

      • Tony_E

        Partially I suppose. But Scots MPs have had the opportunity to act with dignity in this matter and simply withdraw from votes where they have no constituency to represent.

        So far, they have always refused to do so. Had they done this, the then West Lothian question could have been answered by simple parliamentary convention.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Good point. Certain of the Eire clans often do that.

        • Jambo25

          The SNP don’t vote on English only matters although due to the effect of ‘Barnett consequentials’ some apparently English only matters do have carry over effects into Scotland. If you want no involvement by Scots MPs then you need either full Scottish independence or a very loose confederation. You also need to put pressure the London based parties.

  • Jabez Foodbotham

    “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.”

    He didn’t mention their puir wee dug Sandy. A vote in September might make Sandy a foreigner too.
    How much mawkish bullshit can you take?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …well, puir wee Sandy doesn’t spend his days on the dole, laying around eating plates full of fried Mars bars and smoking cigarettes all day long. It’d be a shame to see Sandy go.

  • Daniel Maris

    The Scots basically need a canvas
    on which to paint their genius. When there was Empire, the Scots were
    pretty happy with the consensus. The unionist party (the Tories) went
    into steep decline as the Empire fell apart.

    I think independence would release a lot of pent up energy.

    • Noa

      So would onanism.

      • Wessex Man


      • Jambo25

        Well you obviously practice it quite a bit.

        • Wessex Man

          oh, you are so so witty?

        • Noa

          You rank with the highest in Rome yourself.

  • RavenRandom

    Don’t you know that if you have an opinion different to Salmond and you happen to be British, but not Scottish, then you’re a “bully”. Cheap and short shelf life tactic.

  • dougthedug

    “…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.”

    Eh? If Scotland becomes independent of course the rUK won’t get access to Scotland’s share of the £200 billion worth of oil and gas in the North Sea.

    “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.”

    Kind of blown it hasn’t he. The main reason that he didn’t want to have a debate with Alex Salmond was to avoid the Better Together campaign being linked publicly with the Tory party. Unfortunately now he’s gone North with his Cabinet and pronounced on oil he’s pushed Darling and his Labour front colleagues into the background and the Better Together campaign has become inextricably linked to Dave.

    Should it be the case that granny and grandad become foreigners, just because of a vote in September?
    What is it with unionists and their obsession with family members becoming foreigners? Will the grandchildren reject their grandparents if they’re dirty foreign Scots after September?

  • Noa

    One fears for the continuance of the Union when the all-time master of the U turn argues for it so vapidly.

  • CraigStrachan

    I think you overstate the potency of the “Etonian bully” charge. I mean, is there really anyone who Scotland who’s thinking “well, okay, so maybe I don’t know what currency I’ll have in my pocket the day after independence, my UK pension will be gone for a button, prices, taxes and interest rates will rise, I’ll lose my right to free movement across the EU, and Auntie Agnes in Preston will be a foreigner. But, hey, at least we’ll have a government led by someone who went to Linlithgow Academy instead of Eton”?

    I mean, Alex Salmond seems to think it works, obviously. I’m not so sure, myself.

    • Doggie Roussel

      I assume you mean Floreat Etona, realising that very many prime ministers of this country were educated therein and some of them even discharged their duties with some distinction…. and very much better than the variegated oiks to whom we have been subjected: Wilson, Major, Blair and Brown springing immediately to mind…

      • Wessex Man

        yeah those pesky pair of Bs have an awlful lot to answer for!

    • Shinsei1967

      Couldn’t agree more. I find it unbelievably stupid that some Scots may decide the fate of the Union on the fact that the current PM went to Eton. Three years ago the PM was an old boy of Kirkcaldy High School. And in two years the next PM will probably be an old boy of Haverstock Comprehensive.

      • Jambo25

        And an upper middle class Oxford graduate from a North London academic family. Totally typical (Of the political class.).

        • Wessex Man

          You can always be relied upon to bring a little snowstorm to any thread.

          • Jambo25

            True though.

      • abystander

        You are not trying to pretend that Britain is some kind of meritocracy, are you?

    • BarkingAtTreehuggers

      Your ‘UK pension will be gone for a button’?
      Wow, never thought I’d be reading so much tripe so high up – must be because this is all about how you *feel*, not about brains, innit?

  • BarkingAtTreehuggers

    Difficult choices lie ahead – will the above photograh or the one of Piers M be my screensaver of the week?

    • AsYouSay

      Oops. I thought the one above was of Piers M.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        An honest mistake. They’re interchangeable socialist muppets.