Prime Minister David Cameron was “right to have made such a strong and emotional intervention” in his first major address on Scottish independence at the Olympic stadium in London last Friday, says the FT. Britons have been “too blasé” about a possible split, which will be voted on in seven months’ time.
A Yes vote would not only condemn London and Edinburgh to years of “sterile debate” over everything from the currency, sovereign debt and business regulation to the armed forces; it would also, as Cameron said, “deeply diminish” the UK. The 307-year-old union between England and Scotland is “one of the most successful political marriages in modern history”.
In the event of a Yes vote, “Britain’s prized reputation for political stability would slip; investor confidence would be lost”. Cameron is understandably “wary” of hurting the unionist cause by associating it too closely with a “Tory brand that is unpopular north of the border”. All three main party leaders – David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg – should therefore make the case collectively.
When Cameron, a southern Tory public schoolboy, talks about the union, it simply “reinforces” all the Scots want to get away from, agrees Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian.
The reason so many are considering making the break is fear that Britain will never again return to “the kind of social democratic values that still find a ready consensus in Scotland”. But in the end, the economy could prove the “decisive factor”.
Voters will be “pondering” the gloomy recent analyses by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, which warns that an ageing population and declining oil revenues spell higher taxes.
In the most recent polls, support for independence is holding fairly steady at 43%, with 57% preferring to remain in the UK; 51% believe independence would mean higher tax bills.
There is certainly no shortage of “miserablist” arguments, says Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer. Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, has talked about Scotland losing defence contracts; George Osborne, the chancellor, has suggested an independent Scotland will be “too feeble” to support its banks.
Bank of England governor Mark Carney has drizzled “cold water” over the idea that an independent Scotland could keep the pound. But is fear-mongering sensible, or will it just raise the Scots’ hackles and encourage them to vote Yes?
At least Cameron cannot be accused of acting out of electoral self-interest. Rerun the result of the last general election without the 59 MPs Scotland sends to Westminster (only one of whom is currently a Tory), and the Tories would have a majority of 19. Cameron genuinely does not want to see the UK ‘torn apart’. Nor does he want to go down in history as the PM who “lost Scotland”.