Sunday, 8 February 2009

Articulating an impeccably unionist message on Scotland

Whilst a certain appallingly poor blogger on Slugger O’Toole has been endeavouring to imply that David Cameron is compromising his unionism in an article which he has written for Scotland on Sunday, anyone who bothers to read the SoS piece will conclude that it is scrupulously unionist both by inclination and by content. Addtionally it is certainly not, by any description, at odds with remarks delivered by Conservative peer, Lord Trimble, in an interview with Edinburgh’s Evening News.

In his article Cameron rightly argues that more cooperation between the governments at Westminster and Holyrood is required. He envisages a constructive and engaged relationship with whichever administration happens to be in place in Edinburgh.

“If we win the next election at Westminster, we would govern with a maturity and a respect for the Scottish people. I would be a Prime Minister who would work constructively with any administration at Holyrood for the good of Scotland, and I would be in regular contact with the First Minister no matter what party he or she came from.”

Not only a worthy sentiment, proposing to oil the attritional interface between national government and devolved government in Scotland (attrition which benefits nationalists), but an impeccably unionist sentiment, by most sensible interpretations. How can the proposition to increase active involvement from Westminster and Whitehall in the government of Scotland be anything other than a unionist proposition?

Importantly, cooperating with Scotland’s government does not entail anything less than wholehearted opposition to the nationalist designs of Alex Salmond’s SNP. Seeking to benefit Scotland and deliver more effective government, within the constraints of the constitutional vandalism which has already irreparably been visited upon the United Kingdom, is a more effective means of protecting the Union than reflexive opposition to everything Holyrood proposes. In his interview, David Trimble argues forcibly that the SNP is failing and that its momentum will inevitably be lost. He suggests that for Scotland, “exhausting the SNP alternative is probably a necessary rite of passage."

The Conservative leader is equally forthright rebutting nationalist claims,

“If elected, I will do everything in my power to ensure that the SNP will not be able to split up the UK. I want to be a Prime Minister of the whole UK. That's not because I'm some kind of megalomaniac, it's because we have so much in common and we have done so much together.”

There is no discernible fissure between the unionism outlined by Trimble, a unionism wherby, “there is only one sovereign parliament in the UK, end of story. Power devolved is power retained”, and the vision articulated by his party leader. Both men seek to conserve the constitutional apparatus which Labour has not managed to inflict damage upon. Both men wish to see the United Kingdom work as best as it possibly can.

It is worth reflecting again on the rationale which has led Cameron to build a UK wide Conservative and Unionist force, encompassing Northern Ireland’s Ulster Unionist party. It is a rationale which the Tory leader applies to Scotland in his article,

“We are now the only major party to field candidates in all four parts of the UK. Across the water in Ulster we are building a new force in Northern Irish politics, by combining with the Ulster Unionists to create a modern, moderate centre-right force. Scotland too needs a force that promotes conservative values – the family, enterprise, and a strong country – and that stands up for the UK at the same time.”


fair_deal said...

How you responded when others said the wanted a good working relationship with the Scottish government.

"It is appropriate that Ian Paisley is spending his last day as First Minister cuddling up to fellow UK regional nationalist, Alex Salmond."
"In forming an alliance of convenience with Alex Salmond"

fair_deal said...

Also how could I forget this gem

"Ultimately, however, a regional, nationalist party governing a majority unionist area of the United Kingdom will have a baleful influence on coherent politics there. Witness Salmond’s attempts to paint the illegality of SNP local income tax proposals as a consequence of ‘English colonialism’. It is an attritional, divisive brand of governance which will necessarily take its toll on the fabric of Scottish political life."

An illegal proposal Cameron wants to sort out with Salmond

"David Mundell, the shadow Scotland secretary, said the Conservatives would have an "open dialogue" with Salmond on the disputed millions, unlike the Labour government which is threatening to withhold the cash if the SNP abolishes the council tax. He said Tory leader David Cameron would not seek to "veto" the local income tax plan by getting bogged down on such "confrontational" issues."

Chekov said...

Ok FD. It really is getting tiresome that you refuse to compare like with like. Quite deliberately and knowingly of course.

Rather than a good working relationship with Salmond Paisley had something akin to friendship, and his party has stated its intention to gang up on Westminster in order to extract certain concessions. We could go through the usual list, 'Brits', 'squatters' etc, but once again, you know all this.

On council tax, clearly Salmond is seeking to portray opposing it as 'colonialism'. I have already pointed that out. Cameron is seeking to remove the sting. Whether that is right or not I am not sure, but certainly his unionism is not in question.

fair_deal said...

"It really is getting tiresome that you refuse to compare like with like"

Trying to ignore legitimate comparisons as this time you happen to like one of the participants and rationalise in your friends what you attack others for doing is tiresome.

Another example, this was your attack on Brown for thinking of altering tax powers for the Scottish parliament
"With the SNP proposing tax measures which have the capacity to see Alex Salmond fall flat on his face and which, at best, will deliver a £750m shortfall in the public purse, why would Gordon Brown choose this moment to devolve more tax raising powers to Edinburgh?
Although Labour have shown little inclination towards consistency or coherency as regards their ad hoc devolution project, any tinkering with the financial arrangements for Scotland would necessarily have repercussions in Northern Ireland and in Wales."

Yet when Cameron offers to talk about such things and has his shadow chancellor have discussions with the SNP's John Swinney it is an "impeccably unionist message". Huh?

This is a clear example of a criticism you made previous of the Conservatives namely that "the Conservative position on the Union can be worryingly contradictory and ambiguous"

Cameron has jumped about on the constitution and what changes he will make. This week-end's Scottish press adventutre is his latest jump. Regrettably the Conservatives seem as at sea as New Labour who created the mess.

"certainly his unionism is not in question"

No one is questioning it but if anyone else had done this then it stood a high chance of it being questioned here.

Seymour Major said...

The blog is a very good piece.

In relation to the comments which follow, a comparison is being made between regional parties from different consituent parts of the United Kingdom having links and between the administration of UK Government and the administration of a regional government having links.

The purpose of regional parties getting together seems to be for the purpose of bringing together an anti-Westminster cartel, whereas the purpose of the National and regional administrations getting together is to harness the resources from the various divisions of gorvernment for mutual benefit of the regions and the whole of the United Kingdom.

In relation to discussion on tax-raising powers, this is much more complicated. It has to be borne in mind that if this is, after all, a proposed fiscal adjustment and requires negotiation with the treasury. I am not sure why criticism of Brown's position on that matter was merited but what has that got to do with the thrust of this post?

The last comment of fair deal seems to indicate a motive for the criticism.

"No one is questioning it but if anyone else had done this then it stood a high chance of it being questioned here."

Just to borrow a Slugger analogy, isn't that 'playing the man and not the ball?'

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