David Cameron’s role in the Scottish Independence Debate

When are Better Together going to start telling us what the consequences of a ‘no’ vote will be?

The news this morning is that Prime Minister David Cameron is declining to take part in a televised debate with First Minister Alex Salmond. Instead, Salmond should be debating with Alistair Darling, chair of the Better Together campaign and Labour MP for Edinburgh South West.

Cameron’s reasoning, according to a Downing Street spokesperson, is that:

“…he believes the debate should be led by Scots in Scotland and that is why Alistair Darling will lead for the No campaign”
quoted in today’s Sunday Herald

Is it me? The outcome of this debate will affect the whole of the UK, not only Scotland. The question being asked is whether Scotland should request independence from the UK government. He is one of the four signatories of the Edinburgh Agreement which is allowing this debate to go ahead in the first place. For the elected leader of that UK government to say that it’s not his role to advocate for Scotland to remain part of the UK makes no sense to me at all. Especially when he’s terribly concerned that the debate goes “the right way”. He’s not quoted as to which, in his opinion, is the right outcome, so I’m not going to presume:

“this is an issue of enormous importance, we cannot in any way let this argument go the wrong way. We’ve got to fight every day. It’s one of the biggest issues of next year, if not the biggest. I desperately want it to go the right way…I try and keep a really close hand on all this”
-speaking to Fraser Nelson of The Spectator

Gee. Thanks Dave.

Alastair Darling is obviously an experienced politician (you can check out his voting history here) , and well-respected, but I’m unclear as to what his qualifications are to present an alternative to the Yes campaign’s vision. As a backbench member of the party currently in opposition at Westminister, he has, at best, a minimal say in what Scotland’s role will be in the UK post-2014. His decision to “talk straight” with the electorate about the country’s economic situation and his own party’s prospects (Guardian, 2008)  may well have earned him a bit of respect from voters, but can we imagine him being brought into the Labour fold again any time soon?

I could even understand Cameron’s determination to keep away from the debate in favour of Johann Lamont taking on Salmond – at least the leader of the Scottish Labour Party would be able to tell us what she would expect and demand from Westminister in the event that Scotland continued to be part of the UK. But to say that a backbench member of the opposition party best placed to represent what is, according to the opinion polls, the majority view of Scots, is a massive admission of the irrelevancy of the coalition government to the majority of Scots.

As a wary and cautious Yes-leaning voter, I’m desperate for some real explanation of what the consequences of voting ‘no’ will be. Answers are constantly being demanded of the SNP and other members of the ‘Yes’ campaign, but really, when are we ever really voting in any election on anything other than desperate hope that at least some of our favoured party’s promises will be kept? I feel far less certain of what a ‘no’ vote will mean for Scotland – will Scotland’s voice be heard in a UK referendum on continuted membership of the EU, for example – than I do about what a vote for independence would mean. Of course in an independent Scotland there would be years of negotiation, the outcomes of which are uncertain. However, we’re all subject to global circumstances that we will never be able to predict or control, but we can be in control of choosing a leaders whose policies are, we believe, motivated by principles that match our own.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”
-Albert Einstein (probably)

MORE: Good reading from George Kerevan on newsnetscotland.com on Cameron’s role in the debate and from Joyce McMillan in The Scotsman on demanding ‘facts’ from the SNP

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2 thoughts on “David Cameron’s role in the Scottish Independence Debate

  1. If you are looking for practical factors as to why Scotland is better off as part of the UK:

    1. Most major retailers price goods nationally so the price is consistent in Aberdeen / Bristol / Cardiff. However the logistical costs of stocking goods in Scotland are higher than anywhere else. As a result goods in England & Wales are priced higher than they should so there can be 1 common price. Assuming Scotland leaves, goods become cheaper in England & Wales and more expensive for Scotland. This has already been confirmed by retailers.

    2. Much is made of the massive gas fields which Scotland would use to enrich itself. Unfortunately for Scotland technology has now changed to the point within 10-20 LNG will be taking over driving down prices dramatically. Historically gas prices have wildly fluctuated by continent due to the difficulty in transporting it other than by pipeline. What LNG allows for however is continental transportation at scale. Therefore suddenly the price drops as a result. This is actually a much bigger problem for Russian than Scotland, equally it would mean that Scotland would be caught in a trap of subsidizing its industry to avoid it collapsing, something which will impact every household negatively. As part of a larger economy these costs can be absorbed, but as a small nation the cost per household would be considerably higher.

    There are many other factors, but most of them revolve around the principle of economies of scale and by being part of a larger nation you get better cost efficiencies and more capital investment.

  2. Nice. I’m currently in the cautious ‘Yes’ camp too (having previously been a staunch ‘No’, and an abstainer), but I’m not really expecting either side to offer any convincing argument, as we have no real idea what might happen, or what the political landscape will be, until it happens. For me, it is more about the Scottish vote generally being more in tune with my politics, the chance to start something inspiring, radical, and less immoral than the UK system, and an attitude which is pro-welfare, pro-immigration, pro-international co-operation etc. Always good to get your thoughts down on a ‘page’!

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