Archive for December 17th, 2007


David Cameron and the state of the Union

17 December, 2007

carolyn-brodie-david-cameron-share-a-joke.jpgI popped into Edinburgh last week, to listen to David Cameron pledge his support for the Union – a most welcome intervention in the current debate. The speech also served as a coded warning to those Little Englander Tories, who have been so vocal recently, bold in their assertions that their constituents are paying for our children’s education.

 Well, as the Herald demonstrated but a few short weeks ago, that is nonsense: Scotland may indeed have high levels of spending in its more deprived areas, but we pay our own way. £49 billion in tax revenues going south and £49.2 bn being spent across the country as a whole. (If I were a Nat, I’d be a bit worried about the net deficit: £200 million might be small change in government spending terms, but, if you have to find it, as well as fund captial spending on Defence and Foreign affairs, that’s quite a shortfall you’re having to find from the tax payer), but I digress.

The main point is that we are not feather bedded by the English, so that’s one chestnut that shouldn’t be deployed this Christmas.

“Better an imperfect union than a perfect divorce,” were David’s words, which I echo wholeheartedly. I believe firmly that we all benefit from being part of one realm, with our separate cultural identities: as Annabel Goldie says, “Alex Salmond doesn’t have the monopoly on patriotism.”

It was slightly dispiriting, therefore, standing among the faithful, to hear one Edinburgh matron, complete with fur coat, assert that it would be even better when “we get rid of that building there,” indicating the Scottish Parliament. My heart sank: when are the die hards going to realise that the Scottish Parliament is here to stay; what is more, it is wanted by the overwhelming majority of the Scottish people and regarded as their primary government. If we can’t accept the settled will of the Scottish people then we will not prosper in Scotland. The Parliament is not going away, so we have to work with it. Annabel has realised that and is wielding her current influence with the minority administration to good effect.

And those who move to Scotland from the south of England, looking for a better quality of life, must be prepared to accept the differing realities that obtain north of the Border. I can well remember moving in 1994 from my job in a large government department in Edinburgh to a job in an even bigger government department in Norfolk. Overnight, I had gone from being the office Right Wing Facist Reactionary to the new Office Pinko, but my politics hadn’t changed: I was still the moderate, right-of-centre being that I had been the previous week.

 What had changed was how I was perceived. All Conservatives, north and south of the Border, must remember that the political yardstick is calibrated differently in Scotland from England.

David Cameron knows it; time some of the die hards took their lead from him.