The Cameron and Salmond Show…
Watching David Cameron and Alex Slamond dance around the issue of a referendum on Scottish independence you can’t help wondering if they have ever considered doing a turn on Strictly Come Dancing. It’s all so beautifully choreographed that you have to suspend your disbelief to come to terms with the fact that they probably haven’t planned all this in advance.
Cameron and the Conservatives pontificate as defenders of the union while Salmond, a modern-day Braveheart in his own eyes, fiercely proclaims Scotland’s right to determine its own future and the date of a future referendum on Scottish independence. Salmond today has insisted that Cameron has no right to set the date and that Holyrood has the authority to go it alone.
Rightly and properly I have to say I agree with Salmond, the Scottish people should have the right to determine their own destiny and should not have to wait for Westminster’s say so. The same holds true when it comes to the vote itself, although, if I were Scottish I would vote for a continuation of the union. Real issues do exist but they are caused by the democratic deficits in-built into how the UK state is organised and therefore what is needed is a radical overhaul of the archaic and creaking institutions which barely hold it together.
Holyrood should, of course, have full Parliamentary powers but there is nothing to stop this happening within a federal framework – especially if there were reform to the House of Lords to make it a ‘Parliament of the regions’. Other options exist short of full-scale severance. However, there is naked politiciking behind both Cameron and Salmonds actions that make separation an increasing possibility.
David Cameron may well be politically tied to taking a unionist stance but looking at the position of the Conservative Party relatively speaking north and south of the border the benefits of a resolution of the Scottish question should be obvious for all to see. Indeed, the cynical might well suspect he has artificially created this dispute to give Salmond what he wants – a wicked English Conservative aggressor trying to lord it over Scotland. It is a win-win for Cameron – he fulfills his unionist obligation as Conservative leader but indirectly he helps precisely the opposite cause.
Salmond also needs this because polls show broad support for the continuation of the union (but more powers for Holyrood). The one caveat to this is support rises but only if it can be proven it would make Scots financially better-off. Since Salmond can’t promise that unless he intends to totally defy economic reality then he has to rely on a bugaboo. Of course, if the independence vote is lost it will lead to major political earthquakes within the Scottish National Party and potentially vastly weaken its political hegemony north of the border.
All of this opens up a space for Labour. A space to be defenders of the union but the defenders of a much-changed, more equitable and more democratic union. This is one of those happy instances where self-interest and principle coincide – for this is principally the right thing to do and politically the right thing to do. Cameron and Salmond are motivated be naked self-interest, let us be the ones that put principle before any other concern and get a better deal for the Scottish people and the rest of the UK as well.