Adds at 2pm. David Cameron’s speech ( in full here, courtesy of the Scotsman) was a constipated affair. Like Eric Morecambe and the Grieg piano concerto, he played all the right notes but not necessariily in the right order – and without enough colour and tone . He talked nervously into the middle distance, not to the single Scottish listener waiting to be lifted. What was missing was the emotional pull to counter Alex Salmond’s deft and cunning patriotism. Content wise, he sounded prepared still to argue against a late 2014 referendum date – although the BBC were claiming this was more or less conceded. We shall see. What was not conceded was “devo max” alongside an “in or out” referendum question. Referendum first, then we’ll consider greater devolution, said Cameron repeatedly in answer to pressed questions. This tactic exposes a flank to Salmond. Unless Scots have a good idea of wider powers of devolution as an alternative to independence, Salmond surely keeps the initiative. Unionists need to co-opt dev max – or at least devo more – as their own. The trouble is, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems are divided on this, as is Labour. They will have to get their act together, fast. Cameron couldn’t bring himself to mention any Labour figure later than John Smith as part of his unionist pantheon. But he did call on Alisatair Darling, John Reid and Gordon Brown to join the unionist campaign – in which he said rightly, modestly – he was “only one of many”.
More later after the next move, as Cameron meets Salmond and the spin really starts.
Alex Salmond made his case in London last night (“the economic case is absolutely clear”) and David Cameron speaks in Edinburgh today on his first ‘proper’ visit (according to Ulster- born commentator Lesley Riddoch) for two years. His main pitch is essentially emotional. At this stage after such a long vacuum on the unionist side, this seems right coming from an English Conservative Prime Minister.
I am 100 per cent clear that I will fight with everything I have to keep our United Kingdom together. To me, this is not some issue of policy or strategy or calculation – it matters head, heart and soul. Our shared home is under threat and everyone who cares about it needs to speak out”
The two come together as the real debate – or is it the battle? – is joined at last. Leading polls analyst John Curtice says arguments on the economy seem central with the public, (listen to his rapid-fire interview on the Today programme) and each side has it all to do to convince them.
The BBC’s Douglas Fraser explains the Scotland’s Oil arguments with a clarity and fairness we’re unlikely to get from the principals. His contribution incidentally shows how important moderators of various kinds are likely to be in a debate which could drag on for two years.
If you put aside a pound a year, and invest it, after 20 years, you could have £30. Multiply by a billion, and you’ve got the latest piece of Alex Salmond’s vision for an independent Scotland… It’s simple, and an example of how you could use surplus tax revenue from, say, oil.So that’s where [Alex Salmond] gets his suggestion that £1bn could be set aside by an independent Scotland each year, resulting in £30bn after 20 years.
In a piece under his name in the Scotsman, Cameron hints that he will still press for the referendum earlier than 2014.
The strengths that have served us within the United Kingdom through the centuries are precisely the ones we most need today. So let’s have this debate, set out the arguments – and settle the question.
But if it lasts that long, which case will grow stale quicker?
Which side would apathy favour?
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London