After the panic in Westminster over the weekend about the Sunday Times‘ poll putting ‘Yes’ in the lead came the something-must-be-dones. David Cameron said he would ‘strain every sinew’ to fight for a ‘No’ vote. But today his official spokesman was quizzed on the suggestion that he might have pulled out of a planned visit to Scotland this week (James reported in his Mail on Sunday column yesterday that the Prime Minister would stay down south this week ‘to leave the coast clear for Labour’). The spokesman said:
‘The Prime Minister will be in Scotland ahead of the election…There has been no change to the plan.’
Even in the summer, before things got as hairy as they are now, Tory MPs heading up to Scotland to campaign were being told that it might be helpful not to announce on the doorstep that they were Conservative MPs. Now the Prime Minister, who has already had to deny that he would resign in the event of a ‘yes’ vote in order to deny the SNP another carrot to dangle in front of voters who dislike the Tories and their leader, is staying away so that he doesn’t antagonise voters just by being there.
As for another sort of something-must-be-done – the promised settlement for Scotland if it does vote ‘no’ – the Prime Minister’s spokesman gave the distinct impression that the announcement, due ‘in the coming days’ (we expect Wednesday) would be more about process, rather than additional powers. He said it would focus on ‘the plan of action, the timetable and the substantive parameters of that’.
At his press conference this morning, Nick Clegg said there was ‘unwavering unity’ on giving Scotland ‘more power, more control for Scotland, in Scotland’ and that further announcements will be made in the next few days.
But Clegg himself is keen to pursue the logical conclusion of this further devolution to Scotland. His party’s pre-manifesto, launched this morning, says the party will:
‘Introduce “Devolution on Demand”, enabling even greater devolution of powers from Westminster to councils or groups of councils working together (for example a Cornish Assembly).’
Politicians who promise to devolve more powers to Scotland will in turn face greater pressure to hand more powers to Wales and Northern Ireland, and then to the English regions. Is Clegg trying to think ahead of his colleagues on this? Cynics might argue that he’s simply trying to shore up the marginal seats that his party holds south of the Tamar.