The PM is playing out the uncomfortable routine of a lover who doesn’t want to be dumped
The Scottish independence row is turning into a more farcical will-they-won’t-they than Ross and Rachel.
Anyone who has been following the squabbling in recent weeks will have noticed Cameron is coming across as more than a little desperate as he tries to persuade the Scottish people to vote against independence in the summer.
The arguments over whether Scotland would be better or worse off by leaving the UK rage on, much like that little debate that goes on over time in the head of someone who’s deciding whether or not to dump their partner. Scotland has been with us for so long it can’t remember what it was like to be single, but it knows one thing for sure: it doesn’t like being taken for granted.
The Prime Minister has made no secret of wanting the union to stay intact. He’s told everyone he couldn’t bear to see the country “torn apart” and that “we matter more in the world together”. The fact he only made it as far as East London’s Olympic Park to make those comments didn’t go unnoticed.
When the emotional begging didn’t work, the government moved on to passive-aggressive “bully” tactics. Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond accused it of bluffing after the government said Scotland would not be entitled to use the pound if it went independent – pretty much the equivalent of “if you go, I’m keeping the house”. The government’s mates even said it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to hang out with the rest of the EU.
The Prime Minister has now moved on to bargaining, yesterday promising a £200bn revolution in oil and gas over 20 years… But only if the union stays together, because the Scottish oil industry needs the UK economy, Cameron said. But he should know the “you need us more than we need you” rhetoric doesn’t really work when mixed with pleas.
The PM held yesterday’s cabinet meeting in Scotland – only the second time in 90 years this has happened. Instead of accentuating the importance of Scotland to the UK’s identity, it just reminded the devolved state how overlooked it has felt in the past.
You see, Cameron is starting to look like the proverbial spurned partner who, after lying on the sofa taking Scotland for granted for so many years, turns up with a bunch of flowers and promises things will change if only Scotland would stay.
Unfortunately for the PM and the No campaign, Scots can see right through the nauseating flood of affection and promises, and it looks like the bluffing and pleading is starting to get on their nerves.
Most polls show that while only 37% of Scots support independence, the gap is closing as more voters move from the No camp to being unsure how they’ll vote in the referendum.
In fact, when asked what they thought the result would be by ICM for The Scotsman, Scottish people thought the No campaign would win, but gathering only 53% of the vote they estimated. You know what they say about the wisdom of crowds.
So it seems support for independence is increasing but divorce isn’t on the cards just yet.
However, Cameron promised to keep making the “unrelentingly positive” case for the union up until the September referendum so he still has time to irritate the undecided into voting yes.
Come on now mate, there’s no need to beg. Just give the Scots some space and let them make up their own mind.