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Wings Over Scotland

The honey-dripping beehive

Posted on February 17, 2012 by

So was that it? The Unionist media is briefing hard that David Cameron finally laid out the fabled “positive case for the Union” in Edinburgh this week. You can judge the positivity or otherwise for yourself by reading the full text of his speech (which was far more delicately-judged than his previous clodhopping intervention, but still contained the traditional doom-laden warnings of “danger”, terrorist attack, banking collapse and so on) here, but whether the message was positive or not, the one thing it certainly wasn’t was a case for the Union.

Cameron listed a fairly impressive set of reasons why Scotland was great (even managing to cite Keir Hardie through what must have been gritted teeth). He explained why the past was great, because in it the UK had forged great institutions like the NHS (which is already an entirely separate and fully-devolved body in Scotland) and a “generous” welfare state – both of which his government is now dismantling as fast as it humanly (and inhumanly) can. And he hinted at a great future, in which Scotland would enjoy greater devolved powers and responsibilities.

The problem is, the referendum will be a straight choice not between independence and a possible imaginary Union of the future, but between independence and the Union we have now. (Cameron is unequivocal on this, insisting that his hypothetical vision of a more devolved Scotland within the United Kingdom isn’t actually offered to the Scottish people, but left entirely in the trust of Westminster.) And for THAT Union, Cameron made no case at all. Indeed, it could plausibly be argued that he all but explicitly abandoned it.

It’s hard to construct any sort of plausible justification for the Prime Minister’s refusal, when repeatedly challenged by journalists after the speech, to outline the specific devolution proposals which might be negotiated or acknowledge any need for a democratic mandate for them. Cameron has two years in which he could, if he wished, put together an “enhanced devolution” package which could go on the ballot paper. That’s plenty of time, especially given that the Unionist parties have already had a  two-year head start while working on the Calman Commission and Scotland Bill. So why is he so implacably opposed to the idea?

It seems unlikely that the Scottish electorate will fall for such a flimsy pig in a poke. They have, after all, been here before (as the SNP will be sure to constantly remind them), and the vague implied promises of some sort of possible jam tomorrow will carry no more weight for also coming from the hopelessly discredited mouths of Nick Clegg and Michael Moore. (And less still if Labour join in, should they somehow get so far as managing to develop a policy at all.)

David Cameron didn’t make the positive case for the Union on Thursday. He made a case for a positive version of the Union. It’s a version which exists only in abstract conceptual form and which the Prime Minister will neither describe nor commit himself to. (And indeed, one which he may be in no power to honour even if he wanted to, given that by the time the referendum is over a UK general election will loom a matter of months over the horizon.)

It is, in other words, a con trick – a honey trap, built with sugar-sweet words and little else. The Scottish people were badly stung 33 years ago. We suspect this time it’s Cameron who will come unstuck.

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5 to “The honey-dripping beehive”

  1. Tearlach says:

    I do wonder if Cameron has offered the SNP an open goal with his “more powers if you vote no” line.  It completely turns the tables in the Devo Max debate, with Nationalists now able to say “We know what me mean by Independence – what do you mean by more powers, and how can you expect the Scottish Electorate to make an informed decision without you spelling out what you mean”.

  2. Kenny Campbell says:

    I'm not sure whether they are so sure they can win the NO vote that they don't need to offer an alternative, whether they actually want a split or whether they are waiting till closer to the vote to open their goodie bag. The current opposition defence for the union is chaotic.
    In anycase it looks like a straight yes/no and for me that is the best opportunity for us to get independence. Any sniff of a halfway house and it will be grabbed by those taken in by the scare stories.

  3. MartinB says:

    Not only has it offered the Nationalists that open goal, but Salmond was already sidefooting it into the net last night.
    Personally, I think the compromise outcome will be that the Referendum Question will be a straight choice between Independence and DevoMax. Which is a win either way, even if one is only winning a battle, not the war.

  4. daretodare says:

    What a difference a day makes. 

    Thursday 16th February 2012 –  Prime Minister David Cameron sets out the positive case for Scotland retaining the Union based these islands shared values and common vision.

    Friday 17th February 2012 Prime Minister David Cameron set out the positive case for substantial UK co-operation on defence cover with France based on a new joint military command centre, drone production and nuclear weapons. In addition the UK premier confirms awarding a contract to AREVA to build four nuclear reactors in the UK

    So the positive case for the Union is

    UK and France speed up plans for joint military operations

    UK and France agree to fast track military command centre plans

    UK-France agreed to push ahead with the next phase of plans to build a new generation of pilotless “fighter drone” aircraft.

    UK-France contract AREVA to build four nuclear reactors in the UK on behalf of EDF.

    And this real and substantial co-operation on defence will cover not only the new command centre and drone production, but also nuclear weapons, said the Prime Minister.

    And Prime Minister David Cameron wonders why he is so misunderstood having just put his “very positive” case for the Union. Perhaps it’s because he forgot to mention that in 1979, the last time Scotland held a referendum, UK national debt was £84 billion. Today it is over 520% of UK National Income or “slightly” over £1 Trillion Pounds. If ever there was a positive case for stronger together but weaker apart – this must be it.   

  5. Shodan says:

    So it was a miss then. They took the shot and failed to score, having aimed to make a case for another union and situation altogether instead of the one that mattered. The counter still goes on.

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