Backing Cameron on Scotland without backing Cameron on Scotland

January 18, 2012
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As a referendum on Scottish independence before the end of 2014 looks increasingly likely, it could be crunch time for the Union. Yet there is a noticeable lack of nationalistic noise in the Scottish press. In a country with so few Tory MPs, papers north of the border are, however, less than keen to be seen to back David Cameron. Hence editors have been imaginative in framing their arguments for staying in the Union.

“We can’t leave friends behind,” announced the Daily Record this weekend, arguing that as the heftiest member of the Celtic fringe, Scotland had a duty to stay in and save Northern Ireland and Wales from Anglicisation. “What remains would be the Disunited Kingdom with Northern Ireland isolated and Wales dwarfed.”

The Scotsman, voice of respectable Edinburgh, chose legal niceties as its vehicle of attack. It pointed to the Advocate General’s advice that a referendum organised by the SNP without a transfer of powers to Holyrood would be illegal, and asked: “If the legal position is as defined by the Scotland Act, is he advocating flouting the law of the UK, of which Scotland remains part? We hope not.”

It was the straight-talking Scottish Heraldthat veered closest to endorsing David Cameron’s argument that “devo max” is too vague a concept to be included on a referendum. “The shorter the better, to allow minimum scope for lawyers to pick the meaning apart as lawyers are trained to do.”

Outside of Scotland, the Daily Mail led the charge against independence. “This paper’s earnest hope is that when Scots come to vote, they will look back on 300 glorious years of partnership and opt for more of the same. Or if the distant past fails to convince them, they may care to cast their minds back to 2008, when Westminster’s multi-billion bailout of RBS and HBoS saved Scotland’s economy from being blasted back into the Stone Age.”

It took the Belfast Telegraph to remind readers that this is not just about England and Scotland. In an editorial titled “Union vote not just for the Scots” it argued that the current constitutional wrangling has implications for the rest of the UK. “We do have an important voice in the broad area of constitutional issues affecting the UK, and we should make the full spectrum of our views known in the vital debate which is only beginning.”