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Interesting sub-plot to Cameron's speech

Brian Taylor | 22:35 UK time, Monday, 10 December 2007

Wasn’t that a simply fascinating little al fresco speech by David Cameron in Edinburgh today? I was particularly intrigued by the sub-plot.

This was a speech defending the Union. However, it was plainly also designed to bolster the Conservative and Unionist Party.

Annabel Goldie has had to endure a few murmurs of discontent since Thursday when she committed the Scots Tories to working with Labour and the Lib Dems to set up a Commission to review devolution.

There have been one or two grumbles to the effect that this was scarcely the moment for the Tories to be on the same side as Scottish Labour and their leader Wendy Alexander.

Should not the Tories, say the grumblers, be adding to the perturbations afflicting Ms Alexander, rather than backing her in a Parliamentary motion?

No, says Ms Goldie. The prize is bigger than that. And no, says Mr Cameron. Ms Goldie, apparently, is to be applauded for her “courage and determination”.

However, there was another sub-plot to the Cameron speech. The Tories, he said, would continue to pursue such tricky matters as the West Lothian question and the Barnett formula.

But not, it would appear, with particular vigour. Or, more accurately, not if such vigorous investigation should threaten the Union itself.

Mr Cameron spelled it out: “Better an imperfect union than a broken one. Better an imperfect union than a perfect divorce.”

Why this compromise? Because, apparently, there are “those in England who want the SNP to succeed.”

These individuals, we were told, “seek to use grievances to foster a narrow English nationalism.”

Would this band of absolute rotters include the (Tory) backbenchers who complain, frequently and volubly, about “subsidies” to Scotland?

Does it include the (Tory) frontbencher Alan Duncan who suggested that Gordon Brown couldn’t become PM because he represented a Scottish seat?

Perhaps wisely, Mr Cameron did not say. He confined himself to arguing that he would choose the Union over an objective of “constitutional perfection”.

Which means what, in practice? The Tories will question Barnett – but only as part of a UK wide review of funding.

The Tories will look at English votes for English issues in the Commons – but won’t shout about it too much in case it frightens the horses in the Union stable.

Every Conservative leader since John Major lost power has been tempted to play to an English gallery over grievances, real and exaggerated.

Every Conservative leader since John Major has concluded that such a strategy, while superficially attractive in terms of votes, runs counter to supporting the Union.

I believe David Cameron has now arrived at the same position.


  • 1.
  • At 11:03 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Stephen Davidson wrote:

This is fairly fascinating. In a way Salmand is yet again the winner no matter what. In regards to funding, should there be arguements from Westminister to slash Scottish funding he can use that as an evidence to back up Scottish financial independence. Should there be no arguement he can continue to offer more favourable pay offers to public sector workers north of the border and antagonise the political elite of the South.

  • 2.
  • At 11:15 PM on 10 Dec 2007,
  • Bruno wrote:

Is it just me, or does Annabel Goldie become more like Maw Broon every day? Great cookbook Annabel!

  • 3.
  • At 08:43 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Donnie McGregor wrote:

Good to see the UK government welcoming independence for Kosovo!

Strange to see both the London based Labour and Conservative parties (err is that one or two parties?) state that England is stronger in Union with Scotland.

Double standards from London based parties, were it ever so.

Regards Mr Cameron, if push comes to shove, London based Conservative party will ditch Scotland to get power in England. From their perspective why wouldn't they?

I think it time that all parties accepted Scotland will be free soon and rather than try to maintain the status quo, they actively work to ensure the smoothest of transitions for both states.


  • 4.
  • At 10:04 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Chasa wrote:

When the crunch time comes at the next General Election, English votes for English issues will be high on the agenda. That Cameron won't play that card if it is the key to Downing Street is inconceivable, of course he will play it, whatever the rhetoric at present in support of the Union.

  • 5.
  • At 10:06 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • EricH wrote:

If you like subplots how about the way he came storming over the border to address the massed ranks of papparazzi in our capital city? In not a very green way either! Was his purpose to defend the "imperfect" union or declare war?

  • 6.
  • At 11:23 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Gregor Addison wrote:

When the unionist parties commission reports, who will it report to? Brown or Cameron? Let's be clear here, the self-confessed goal of the thing is to decide what further powers the parliament is to have. Once they have decided (if they can in fact decide, following months or years of consitutional navel-gazing) they have to pass their findings to Westminster. Will Cameron or Brown want to be seen to be pandering to the Scots? I fear Mr Cameron has come to his senses too late. The genie is already out of the bottle.

  • 7.
  • At 11:35 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • gillon johnstone wrote:

After reading this blog and listening to David Cameron's speach.

I would love to find out one thing,

If the tories are so concerned about protecting the Union and the west lothian question

Will Ms Goldie and Mr Cameron publicily apologise for all the tory policies that where forced on the Scottish People by Southern English Tory MPS, such as the poll tax.

Or does the union only trully work when in favour of England and the Scottish people have no voice

  • 8.
  • At 11:58 AM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Chris wrote:


I've read on the Daily Telegraph website (not a usual hunting ground for me but this was an exception) comments attributed to David Cameron yesterday along the lines of 'I'm the first Tory Leader to do a walkabout in Sauchiehall St and not get headbutted'.

Did he really say this? And if so, why is the press not picking up on it? I'm sure it was meant in jest, but - along the lines of Boris Johnston's Liverpool comments - this would normally be political and tabloid dynamite... don't you think?

Any explanation for the lack of comment (even in non-Tory, Glasgow-based papers like the Record and Herald)?

  • 9.
  • At 01:01 PM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Stuart D wrote:

The Unionist parties seem to be in a blinkered situation where they defend the Union to the death without actually being able to give any substance to why this is a better option than independence for Scotland. In fact they are now even admitting that it is the Union that is limiting the potential of Scotland.

They accuse the SNP of being unable to have a rational debate on the development of devolution because of the ultimate goal of independence but surely there is hypocrisy in this – how can the Unionist parties have a reasoned approach to further devolution when they are so desperate to make no decisions that may harm their flawed Union?

  • 10.
  • At 03:04 PM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Ted Harvey wrote:

But just exactly does David Cameron think he will achieve by travelling up to and back from Scotland, to speak of the 'stain' of nationalism?

Regardless of what one may think of the SNP, how does Cameron think it helps the debate by labelling an entire and large part of the Scottish (and therefore UK)electorate as constituing a 'stain'?

Oh yes, all very positive, very inclusive and very persuasive???

  • 11.
  • At 03:29 PM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Glaswegian wrote:

An inteteresting point to note is that there's nothing intrinsically "conservative" in social or economic terms which requires the Tory party to be pro-Union. When you add to this the fact that England appears to have a solid Tory majority, then perhaps in the medium-to-long-term Scottish independence will begin to appeal more and more to Conservatives south of the Border. As for those north of the Border, unshackling themselves from the party of Margaret Thatcher (with maybe a wee change of name along the way) might be the only way of reviving their fortunes.

  • 12.
  • At 04:05 PM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Archie Andrews, Edinburgh wrote:

Cameron's exact comment in the Telegraph was: "As the first Tory leader to have done a walkabout in Sauchiehall Street without being headbutted, I think it's a great badge of honour..."
Cameron is a bit behind the times. The people of Glasgow now do their "headbutting" at the polls - as they did to Scottish Labour at the last election.
But Glasgow people don't like to disappoint those who pay them such warm compliments, as Cameron will discover at the next general election.

  • 13.
  • At 05:22 PM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • PMK wrote:

Cameron decries separatism, yet he defends Scottish unionism: the only truly separatist position in Scottish politics! Unionists want Scotland to stay isolated under London rule (reserved issues) and supervision (devolved issues). The only way to truly join the world (and leave "separatism" behind) is full Scottish independence.

As for so-called "separatism" being a stain on the Union Jack - how does one find a "clean" section of the Union Flag on which a stain would take? It is after all the flag under which the most people in history suffered occupation.

  • 14.
  • At 08:42 PM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Brian McHugh wrote:

Mr Cameron spelled it out: “Better an imperfect union than a broken one. Better an imperfect union than a perfect divorce.”

... That's funny, I know people who have come out of Divorce from bad relationships only to find it was the best thing they had ever done.

Well done Mr Clameron, your bandwagon looks headed for a swift and decisive divorce.

  • 15.
  • At 08:59 PM on 11 Dec 2007,
  • Ayrshireman wrote:

David Cameron is to be applauded. it is clearly in his own political interest to ditch the Union, and thus gain almost perpetual Conservative rule down south, but due to conviction he still maintains it. The Tories must work hard to avoid a doomsday scenario for them and an open goal for the nats - a Conservative landslide south of the border and two or three seats to the north.

  • 16.
  • At 09:15 AM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • Euan McBean wrote:

As a Scotsman, Glaswegian and nationalist, I am proud of my country, city and political standing.

I do not like a foreigner coming to my country an calling my country an area of Europe that should remain under English rule forever, that my fellow Glaswegians are all stereotyped violent heat-butters and that I am a stain.

I find this man and his remarks deeply offensive, as all Scots should.


  • 17.
  • At 03:56 PM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • Ed Gray wrote:

It should be highlighted that unionists make persistent and prejudicial use of ‘extremist labelling’ in much of their argument against the case for Scottish independence.

The ceaseless use of the ‘separatist’ tag is a case in point. I know of no-one in the independence movement who takes this term as other than deliberately pejorative, and no-one who accepts having their desire for an independent Scotland amongst the world’s democratic nations described as ‘separatism’.

Of course, the very use of the word, with its implied overtones of bigotry, hatred and xenophobia – all of which have been used as terms of abuse against a democratic, civilised movement – is calculated to engender revulsion amongst ‘decent people’ against the strongly implied spectre of extremism.

Indeed, I have barely heard a coherent unionist argument that does not rely to some extent on these ‘bogey man’ invectives.

Why should support for Scottish independence be uniquely ‘immoral’ – even if every action taken in the name of Great Britain was somehow above reproach??

The fact that the leader of the UK Conservative Party depends on such insular scaremongering to demonise the Scottish Government in Edinburgh speaks volumes.

He and his ‘North British’ cohorts will have to do a whole lot better if they seek to stage a serious alternative to the National Conversation, and debate the constitutional question through mature argument, as opposed to juvenile and prejudiced diatribe.

  • 18.
  • At 07:13 PM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • Ayrshireman wrote:

David Cameron should be applauded for his stand. It is against his own interests in many ways to keep Scotland in the union - England would have almost constant Tory government without the People's Republic of Scotland. What the Tories have to work hard to avoid is providing an open goal to the nats after the next election - a clear Tory majority in England, with only two or three seats north of the border.

  • 19.
  • At 09:35 PM on 12 Dec 2007,
  • Keith, West Lothian wrote:

SNP excluded there are few parties who have done so much for Scottish Independence. We really should thank the Conservatives.

As for the Barnett formula do we still need it? At it's time of intoduction there was a strong arguement for it but I am not so sure now. How would it effect out relationship with Englanf if Holyrood requested it be scrapped? There would be less resentment towards us from England and one less tool for the UK government to use against us.

I would also like to see the West Lothian question put to bed. Scottish MP's should not be voting on English issues. Brown won't stop it because he won't gat his unpopular policies through. I think it's immoral that he uses Scots MP's to impose his pollicies on England. When the Tories get back in Westminster (they will at some point)and stop it a new question will arise. Why do we have Scottish MP's at all? Come on the Tories!!!

I'm a Scot and a die hard Nat but I am seriously considering voting Conservative at the next UK General Election just to help them on their way. I just don't know if I could place an 'X'in that boz. Time will tell ... but I won't.

  • 20.
  • At 06:46 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • Wansanshoo wrote:

Considering the Tory representation in Holyrood,and Mr Cameron's desire to be enviromentally friendly,one has to wonder if the trip can be justified at all.

I doubt very much if Mr Cameron and his band of 'modern Conservatives' can eradicate Mrs Thatchers awful legacy in Scotland.

My message is a simple one, go home,go home to Westminster,it is where you belong.


  • 21.
  • At 10:17 AM on 13 Dec 2007,
  • karin wrote:


What exactly is davie cameron playing at one minute he wants seperate government for england on those issues that affect only england the next minute he is saying seperatism is a stain. Is it only a stain when it applies to scotland or has he now changed his mind about english votes for england.

and to pick up on another posters point i also am having a devil of a time trying to post to your blog. Have the big bad beeb moderated your blog.

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