There used to be a pithy phrase about Unionists “killing Home Rule with kindness.” Yesterday, in the course of his first substantial speech on the constitutional question, the Prime Minister attempted to kill Scottish independence with emollience and a heavy dose of charm.
It was, in short, the best articulation of the “case” for the United Kingdom I’ve heard from a Scottish or UK politician. The tone was pitch-perfect, but then that’s always been one of David Cameron’s strengths. His Edinburgh speech covered all the bases and anticipated likely criticisms; it targeted the head and the heart.
Two “acknowledgements” were significant. First, Cameron acknowledged that the Conservative Party wasn’t “currently Scotland’s most influential political movement” and that “more than a little humility” was called for when any “contemporary Tory speaks in Scotland.” His argument for the UK, in other words, had little to do with party advantage.
Secondly, the Prime Minister acknowledged that an independent Scotland could “make a go of being on its own, if that’s what people decide.” Often accused of implying that Scotland was “too wee” or “too poor” to go its own way, Cameron deftly closed down another likely line of Nationalist attack.