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Great Scot!
Scottish Devolution Pledges Provoke a Conservative Party Backlash

David Cameron might win the battle but lose the war. The “No” campaign is slightly ahead in most polls leading up to the Scottish referendum on Thursday, but as the Telegraph reports, Cameron’s last-ditch overtures to Scotland now threaten the unity of his own party:

Tory MPs are preparing to publicly savage David Cameron’s handling of the referendum in the event of a No vote, and will attempt to block the plans [for special funding privileges after devolution.]

One female Tory MP said Mr Cameron’s promise, issued just two days before the polls open, was “desperate”.

“There will be a bloodbath. Last night as I was listening to Cameron saying we are going to be providing all these additional benefits to Scotland, when we are struggling in so many areas of the UK.

“It’s all happening on the hoof, in cliquey conversations on telephones in Downing Street. It isn’t happening, and there are a number of us who are incensed who will make sure it isn’t going to happen. But let’s see what the results are first.”

Mr Cameron’s campaign speech yesterday in which he reassured Scots that he would not be Prime Minister for ever has been met with scorn in some quarters.

“Cameron said ‘I won’t be here for ever.’ It just smacks of desperation to me – a man who is trying to get his wife to stay. It’s just desperate.”

As Walter Russell Mead noted recently, David Cameron’s campaign “policy” on Scottish independence has been driven by polling and panic rather than any sort of principled belief about the constitutional future of the United Kingdom. This newest assault from within the Conservative Party stems from Cameron’s promise, joined by the leaders of the other two major parties, to institute the “devo-max” plan for Scottish fiscal autonomy. In effect, the plan would mean that Scottish MPs could vote on fiscal legislation affecting England, while English MPs would have little to no say on Scottish affairs. That opens a constitutional Pandora’s Box known in the UK as the “West Lothian Question.” The basic problem is that devo-max would create a form of taxation without representation.

British backbenchers and political commentators are quickly realizing that whatever the validity of a national referendum to settle the question of Scottish independence, the Prime Minister does not have a clear mandate from either his own party or the British electorate to carry out the constitutional pledges he has made on Scottish devolution.

If the “Yes” vote prevails next week, David Cameron will be the man who lost the United Kingdom. But Cameron’s flailing campaign and ill-conceived promises to the Scots may have already lost him the support of his party.

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  • Andrew Allison

    While all three of the major party leaders signed on to this desperate attempt to sway the vote, Cameron has indeed made a terrible mistake. Even worse than the backlash from his own party, he has wasted political capital which might have been better expended by invoking the clause in the Edinburgh Agreement which requires that the result be decisive, which it seems clear it will not. Should the UK government decide that a narrow “Yes” victory is not decisive, it will be stuck with the costs both of overturning the result the result and delivering on the devo-Max promises made in the hope of avoiding it. Salmond wins either way.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Unlike some I hope the Scots vote for independence, they are significantly further to the left and get $1,600 more per person in welfare benefits than the UK as a whole, and their leaving would be good thing for the rest of the UK. At the same time having the Conservative Party lose its leadership will weaken them and make UKIP an even more attractive political party. If UKIP gains control they will leave the decaying carcass known as the EU, and take an ax to the UK’s big government reducing its backbreaking burden on the economy.

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