Do Cameron and Osborne really want Scotland to stay in the UK?

David Cameron and Alex Salmond: On the same side?
David Cameron and Alex Salmond: On the same side?
Adam Bienkov By

Do Cameron and Osborne really want Scotland to stay in the UK? I only ask because right now they seem to be doing everything in their power to ensure they leave.

The prime minister's recent speech calling on English people to nag their Scottish friends into voting 'no' was spectacularly ill-judged.

Can there be a single person north of the border who would have welcomed such a phone call? How did Cameron imagine such conversations would have played out, if indeed anyone were mad enough to make one?

"Oh hi Philip, how's things going down in London?  How's the kids? You what? You want to talk about the fiscal union and the inherent threat to our balance of payments? You're worried about the impact of independence on North Sea oil security? I'm sorry. I'm very sorry Philip, but I've really got to go."

Do you have Scottish friends you never want to speak to again? Why not follow Cameron's advice and give them a call right now. I guarantee you, they will never answer the phone to you again.

Osborne's intervention today is in some ways even worse. His threat that the UK would never accept Scotland into a fiscal union, risks having the complete opposite effect to its stated intention. 

The problem is not so much the content of the speech itself, although it contains the same vaguely bullying tone that characterises most of his speeches, but that it was Osborne himself who was delivering it. 

If Alex Salmond had set out to design a computer-generated version of a snively-nosed Sassenach to represent the no campaign, he could hardly have created a finer avatar than George Osborne.

Although hardly Mr Popular south of the border, Osborne's appeal is even less apparent in Scotland. A recent YouGov poll found that Scottish voters are the least likely to look positively on Osborne with less than one-in-five saying he is doing a good job as chancellor, as opposed to two thirds saying he is doing a bad one.

The reasons for the antipathy is partly political. Scotland currently has more pandas within it's borders than Conservative MPs. But it is also cultural.


The 'yes' campaign has relied on the deep-seated feeling that London's culture and politics have become desperately remote from Scotland. By allowing a millionnaire wallpaper heir to sell the economic case against independence, the 'no' campaign have played right into this perception in a way that risks fatally damaging the cause.

I remain personally opposed to Scottish independence. Not out of any high-minded love of our joint culture and heritage, although I share that as well.

No, my opposition is based purely on selfish reasons. I realise that if Scotland leaves the UK, then we face a lengthy period of one-party domination at Westminster and a potentially irreversible shift to the right in UK politics.

This is something that worries me deeply. The evidence from recent weeks is that it does not similarly disturb the current occupants of Downing Street.

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