May 15, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
David Cameron visited Glasgow today to make an appeal to the Scottish people to vote “No”. He argued that doing so would enable them to have the “best of both worlds” – explaining that meant “being able to make more decisions here in Scotland while remaining part of this extraordinary family of nations that has achieved such great things in the past and can achieve great things in the future.”
Alex Salmond replied by pointing out that 18 years of Tory rule – which started in 1979, just after a referendum on Scottish devolution had been ‘lost’ hadn’t brought any devolution, so why should Tory promises be believed now. I say ‘lost’ because in fact the “Yes” vote got 51.6% in 1979, but, on a turnout of 64% the Yes vote didn’t meet the 40% of the total electorate needed to actually enact the change. That disappointment on a technicality for the Scottish Nationalists was followed, as Salmond reminded everyone – by “18 years of Tory rule that we didn’t vote for”.
This, basically, is Salmond’s biggest argument, and the “No” campaign’s biggest weakness. At the moment there is a government in place that consists of a senior party with one (1) MP in Scotland, that is making policies that cover Scotland. Worse, Salmond will undoubtedly point out, the polls are looking good for the Tories at the moment, meaning it is possible they will be back in government in 2015. This means that the referendum on September 18th this year could be said (and has been charactised by a Salmond) as a “Yes” vote or a vote for the Tories.
The “No” campaign has acknowledged this in two ways – firstly by having Labour grandees at the head of their campaign. Alistair Darling is the leader and ex-PM Gordon Brown is being entrusted with more and more responsibility to push the case for togetherness. Secondly, Cameron pointed out today that Scotland has many devolved powers – which is why Salmond is First Minister in the first place, and he can envisage them having more should they vote “No” on September 18th, without setting out what those extra powers are.
The truth is though, it is looking more and more like it will in fact be a win for the “Yes” campaign. Because Salmond has not stopped repeating the central point, that this is a once in a lifetime chance for self-determination that Scotland should miss at it’s peril. He believes that the Scots would prefer to be run differently than the way Westminster runs the UK (with more of an emphasis on redistributive social justice) but ultimately he believes that the Scots would prefer to run themselves. Period.
This is why no amount of threats will work – even if the “Yes” campaign have redefined “bluffing” as “telling us the truthful consequences of our decisions”. The fact is that keeping the pound WILL mean less sovereignty as it WILL mean Bank of England controls over interest rates and will require tax harmonization and fiscal rules that surely an independent Scotland would want to escape. The fact is that Scotland, like every other new country, WOULD have to reapply for the EU. But the most important fact is that it may be that Scots just want to have the ultimate prize. The power to govern themselves. Freedom.