There’s an interesting report in today’s Scotland on Sunday about a visit the Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy made yesterday to talk to the members of his party in Catalonia. His tone was pretty robust and part of me longed for a British prime minister, any prime minister, who could visit Edinburgh to speak as firmly.
It wasn’t that difficult to transcribe most of the article directly, substituting names and countries as appropriate. Here’s what the smack of firm government would look like if any British prime minister had the cojones to speak as bluntly. I’ve omitted some of the detail that only makes sense in a Spanish context and assumed that Alex Salmond was first minister at the time of my invented visit. You can check the original article here.
A few weeks after Scots voted in their referendum on independence, British prime minister David Cameron visited Edinburgh yesterday to give a pep talk to the Scottish Conservatives.
Cameron, accompanied by five cabinet ministers and a battery of party heavyweights, addressed the party faithful, then, barely two hours after he arrived, flew back to London without meeting the Scottish first minister Alex Salmond or a single representative of the Scottish Government. Speaking at the G20 summit in Brisbane, Cameron had said he would visit Edinburgh because ‘I may not have presented my case to the Scottish people as well as I might have.’
However, anyone who imagined this was the belated beginning of a battle for hearts and minds was misguided, as was any hope that Cameron might exchange his hardline stance for something more conciliatory during his visit. He did not offer even the slenderest of olive branches …
Cameron said no one had the right to speak on behalf of the Scots and asked: ‘What about all those people who have spent their lifetime wanting to be a part of the UK?’
It’s not up to Scotland ’to divide society and flout the law and the national interest’, he said. ‘I’ll listen to anyone who wants to talk to me, but let me make one thing clear: I will not have British unity called into question nor the right of all Britons to decide what they want their country to be,’ he said to prolonged applause.
He added that ‘Britain doesn’t make sense without Scotland nor Scotland without Britain and this is what the majority of people here and in the rest of the UK think. We don’t want one group of Scots denying the right of others to be British nor their right to be Europeans.’
He criticised Salmond, who he said was directing all of his government’s energy on the issue of independence while neglecting education and health and ‘in short, not doing any housework at all’.
Salmond’s government has spent ‘18 months on the road to nowhere’, he said. ‘Never has a government wasted so much time nor generated so much confusion and instability,’ Cameron claimed, referring to the clamour for independence as ‘delirium’…
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Deputy First Minister, reproached Cameron for coming to the city to hold a meeting but not to listen. She described it as ‘a lack of respect’ not to listen to citizens and ‘to impose a particular version of society’.