First published on Our Kingdom.
From an English perspective David Cameron's most recent speech on the Union is marginally better than his previous big speech on the Union - also delivered to a Scottish audience - in which he blamed the rise of Scottish separatsim on English ignorance and promised to fight 'sour Little Englanders' all the way. David Cameron probably decided to leave the English out of Thursday's speech after reading that the Institute of Public Policy Research found that only one in four of the English support the status quo; that 59% of the English do not trust the UK government to work in the best long-term interests of England, with 79 per cent saying that Scottish MPs should be barred from voting on English laws, and; that 80% of English people support Devo-Max for Scotland. It was a calculated mistake; England, and the rest of the United Kingdom, complicate matters.
David Cameron (or rather Westminster) may have the legal right to prevent a legally binding referendum on Devo-Max but he does not have the moral right. Cameron, however, has gambled big by stating that the case for Devo-Max, the preferred choice of both the Scots and the English, cannot be an considered until after the Scots have rejected independence. This is snake oil salesman territory. Cameron will not consider Devo-Max as it is understood by the Scottish public because, as one questioner put it, "devo max is something that possibly poses as much a threat to the present state [status quo] of the United Kingdom as independence." Or to use Lord Forsyth's turn of phrase: "Devo max would mean creating an English Parliament and a federal government". Fiscal federalism of the kind that 'Devo-Max' entails would arguably have more profound consequences for the Westminster bubble than the loss of Scotland.
Even if federalism were a desirable outcome from a Conservative perspective, Devo-Max would still not be an option because it requires the consent of four nations - not just the Scottish people - and there is no Unionist blueprint for such an eventuality, nor any roadmap that could be rolled out in time for Autumn 2014. So Cameron is left selling a product that he and his Scottish audience do not understand. Will the quasi-federal Union that Cameron wants the Scottish nation to buy into be one in which Scottish MPs are prevented from voting on 70% of Westminster legislation, logically, therefore, excluding Scottish MPs from ministerial positions with an English portfolio? Will it be a Union in which reform of the Barnett Formula will trim Scotland's budget by £4.5 billion? Will it be a Union in which Scotland has proper tax and spend powers or control over oil revenue? Or will it be a Union in which Scotland has greater non-fiscal powers but in which Scottish Government policy is shackled - via Barnett - to those of the UK Government's in England, while the unwanted status quo remains a reality for a constitutionally discontent and increasingly nationalistic England?
Unionists need to answer these questions prior to the referendum on Scottish Independence.
We need to know exactly what manner of Union Cameron is asking the Scots to vote for? In refusing to countenance Devo-Max, and by ignoring the English, Cameron belies his claim that "The Union has never been about shackling different nations: it is a free partnership".
In what way is it a free partnership if the Scottish are not permitted a vote on Devo-Max and the English are never even consulted?
PMQs, House of Commons, Wednesday 22 February 2012
Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab):
Given what the Prime Minister said last week in Scotland, will he devote as much time to facing up to the grievances that the English feel from the current proposals of devolution as he will to considering new proposals of devolution to Scotland? Will he open a major debate here in the House on the English question, so that Members from all parts of the House can advise him on what measures of devolution England needs if we are to gain equity with other countries of the United Kingdom?
The Prime Minister:
We have, obviously, set up the West Lothian group to look at this issue, and obviously we want to make sure that devolution works for everyone in the United Kingdom, but I would part company slightly with the right hon. Gentleman for this reason: I believe the United Kingdom has been an incredibly successful partnership between all its members. Far from wanting to appeal to English people in any way to nurture a grievance they feel, I want to appeal to my fellow Englishmen and say, “This has been a great partnership”—a great partnership for Scotland, but a great partnership for England too. Of course Scotland must make its choice, but we hope that Scotland will choose to remain in this partnership that has done so well for the last 300 years.
What the Prime Minister is trying to say is "No, I won't devote any time to English grievances, which is why I've booted the West Lothian Question into touch and marked reform of the Barnett Formula as a no go area for the foreseeable future while I desperately attempt to keep Scotland in the Union by any means possible."
Michael Gove, for those of you lucky enough to be unfamiliar with him, is the Scotsman in charge of English education. He's the Scot who likes to change the word 'England' to 'Britain'; he's the Scot who likes to bang on about teaching British history in English schools; the Scot who will not say the word 'England' even when his policy specifically relates to England alone; the Scot who wants to subject English children to Britishness propaganda classes. In short, he's a Scot who goes out of his way to wind up English nationalists and create hostility.
Yesterday, in a speech at Westminster, Gove had this to say:
When some of my colleagues say we need to re-visit the West Lothian Question or we need to have a new settlement that is fairer to people in England, I say 'no, remember the bigger picture'.
Unbelievable! Michael Gove has been a Conservative MP since 2005 when he was elected under the leadership of Michael Howard, who had a policy of English Votes on English Laws. No doubt Michael Gove was planning to become an MP under the leadership of William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith, both of whom also promised English Votes on English Laws. Gove was also a key member of David Cameron's leadership campaign group, a campaign which promised English Votes on English Laws, and which later produced a manifesto promising this:
Labour have refused to address the so-called ‘West Lothian Question’: the unfair situation of Scottish MPs voting on matters which are devolved. A Conservative government will introduce new rules so that legislation referring specifically to England, or to England and Wales, cannot be enacted without the consent of MPs representing constituencies of those countries.
But now, as his countrymen sue for divorce, Gove asks his colleagues to hold back on plans to create a new Union settlement that is fair to the people of England. Michael Gove, you are a weasley little shit.
UPDATE: Some more of Gove's speech via Whitehall 1212
One of the things I wanted to emphasis is that this is an argument that has to be won on several dimensions. Firstly we have to persuade Scotland that its future is stronger in the UK, than it would be if Scotland were to separate. We are stronger as a result of a our common endeavour over 300 years, we’ve achieved amazing things together, we pool risk more effectively, we safeguard the weak more effectively, we project our values because we stand together.”
"There is a threat to that from Scottish separatism, but there is also a threat, under appreciated, from English separatism as well. I think there is a specific threat from my own political tradition.
"There are some people on the right who say the Scots want to leave - let them. That is entirely the wrong attitude. It seems to me to be saying: 'This used to be a warm house where we all used to live together but, frankly - you daft besom -if you want to leave on your own head be it’. These are not the words of someone who wants to keep a marriage together.
"That is why, when some of my colleagues say we need to re-visit the West Lothian Question, or we need to have a new settlement that is fairer to people in England, I say no. Remember the bigger picture.
"The country was Great Britain for a reason, because we stood together and stand together. if we turn inwards and against each other then I feel we will undermine something that is precious and our country will be a diminished presence in the future.
This is the speech delivered by the Prime Minister in Edinburgh on 16 February 2012.
Good afternoon everyone and thank you very much for coming. It is great to be back in Edinburgh. Whenever I come to Edinburgh I always remember an early visit that I made here as a young man. A friend of mine got some tickets for Murrayfield and on that occasion Scotland beat England. And I remember walking back into Edinburgh, stopping at a chip shop I think it was, and as I walked through the door a Scottish fan said: ‘What will you be having, humble pie?’ And it is in that spirit that I come today.
The air in Scotland hangs heavy with history. Edinburgh’s cityscape is studded with monuments to memories. Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, John Knox: they all compete for our attention. In Dundee, Captain Scott’s Discovery lies at anchor. In Aberdeen, King’s and Marischal Colleges remind us of a time when the Granite City had as many universities for its citizens as England had for all of hers. And while the hauntingly empty acres of the Highlands stand in mute memorial to the injustices visited on the victims of the clearances, Glasgow’s magnificent architecture and art galleries remind us of the mercantile greatness of the Empire’s second city.
For politicians north and south of the border, however, there is a danger of living in the past when thinking of Scotland. That is partly because its history is populated so thickly with great men and women who we might want to conscript for our contemporary battles. Those of us on the centre right will pray in aid of Adam Smith and David Hume: economic liberals and philosophical conservatives whose enlightenment thought laid the basis for later political action. On the left, the examples of James Maxton and Keir Hardie can still inspire class strugglers to one more heave.
This has been a pioneering country all its life: as a home of learning in medieval times; a nursery of literacy and learning at the time of the Reformation; a champion of liberty in the Enlightenment; the turbine hall of the Industrial Revolution; a recruiting ground for freedom’s fighters in two World Wars; the birthplace of John Reith, who gave us public service broadcasting; and as a powerful contributor to the last 25 years of economic growth. Scotland has so much of which to be proud and one of the reasons that we are tempted to look backwards is precisely because Scotland – as a nation and as part of the United Kingdom for over 300 years – has achieved so much.
But proud as that past and present are, I am convinced that both for Scotland and for the United Kingdom, our best days lie ahead of us. And that even though it may be a great historical construct, the United Kingdom is actually even more of an inspiring model for the future. Think of the key challenges of our times. There are the risks and opportunities of globalisation, with populations moving, cultures clashing, new routes to prosperity, and there is the impact of increasing economic competition from the new economic powerhouses of the world. I believe the United Kingdom has the answer to both of those challenges. In an increasingly uncertain world, where risks proliferate and atomisation threatens our ability to look out for one another, nothing encapsulates the principle of pooling risk, sharing resources, and standing together with your neighbour better than the United Kingdom. Whether it is ensuring the same disability benefits for those in need from Motherwell to Maidstone, or ensuring that the resources of 60 million tax-payers stand behind our banking system. Whether in Edinburgh or London, the United Kingdom is a warm and stable home that billions elsewhere envy. And in an increasingly competitive world, where the future belongs to those who can collaborate, innovate, and co-operate together best, the support a nation of 60 million can give, for example, to knowledge exchange between bio-engineers in Edinburgh and Oxford, or venture capital for the best start ups: this could be the envy of the world.
So I come here today with one simple message: I hope and wish that Scotland will vote to remain part of the United Kingdom. That is not because I want to dragoon Scotland into an arrangement that is in my interest or, frankly, in my Party’s interests. I know that the Conservative Party is not currently – how can I put this – Scotland’s most influential political movement. I am often reminded that I have been more successful in helping to get pandas into the zoo than conservative MPs elected in Scotland.
So more than a little humility is called for when any contemporary Tory speaks in Scotland. In fact, some say it might be wiser not to speak at all. As well as avoiding any criticism from the press – or politicians from other Parties for ‘interfering’ – it might be thought wise of me to just let Scotland, in every sense, go its own way. And some people – not all of them Conservatives – have suggested that an independent Scotland might make it easier for my Party to get a majority in Westminster. But that does not interest me.
I am not here to make a case on behalf of my Party, its interests or its approach to office. I am here to stand up and speak out for what I believe in. I believe in the United Kingdom. I am a Unionist head, heart and soul. I believe that England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, we are stronger together than we ever would be apart.
It is time to speak out – whatever the consequences – because something very special is in danger: the ties that bind us in the place that we call home. The danger comes from the determination of the Scottish National Party to remove Scotland from our shared home.
Now it is absolutely right that since the SNP won the Scottish elections, they should be able to determine the business of the Scottish Parliament and the agenda of the Scottish Government. They want to put the question of independence to the Scottish people and their ultimate ambition is clear: they want Scotland to leave the United Kingdom. And it is right too that the choice over independence should be for the Scottish people to make. But that choice should not be made – with its consequences for all of us – without explaining why I believe in the United Kingdom, and why it matters to so many of us.
Let me be clear, though, I am not going to stand here and suggest that Scotland could not make a go of being on its own, if that is what people decide. There are plenty of small, independent nation states of a similar size or even smaller. Scotland could make its way in the world alongside countries like those.
Of course, every country in the world is facing new challenges and an independent Scotland would itself need to confront some big issues. There are those who argue about the volatility of dependence on oil, or the problems of debt and a big banking system. And there is – for some smaller nations – the risk that independence can actually lead to greater dependence.
Certainly today Scotland has a currency – the pound – that takes into account the needs of the Scottish economy as well as the rest of the United Kingdom when setting interest rates. And it can borrow on rates that are amongst the lowest in Europe. An independent Scotland would have to negotiate in future for things it now gets as of right. But these challenges and the need to overcome them: they are not my point today.
My argument is simple. Of course Scotland could govern itself. So could England. My point is that we do it so much better together. I can – and I will – enumerate a number of practical reasons for our United Kingdom. But the reason I make the case is partly emotional. Because this is a question of the heart as well as the head. The United Kingdom is not just some sort of deal, to be reduced to the lowest common denominator. It is a precious thing; it is about our history, our values, our shared identity and our joint place in the world. I am not just proud of the Union because it is useful. I am proud because it shapes and strengthens us all.
Just think of what we have achieved together. Scotland has contributed to the greatest political, cultural, and social success story of the last three hundred years: the creation and flourishing of a United Kingdom built on freedom and inclusivity. Individual nations can – of course – adhere around ancient myths, blood-soaked memories, and opposition to others. But we have built – in the United Kingdom – something that also coheres around the values embodied in standing up for freedom and democracy around the globe: in free healthcare for all; in a generous welfare system for the poorest; and championing the most vulnerable on the world stage. A United Kingdom which is not monoglot, monochrome, and minimalist but multi-national, multi cultural, and modern in every way. Our United Kingdom, founded on the strengths, yes, of our constitutional monarchy, our parliamentary democracy, and the rule of law. But it is also the birthplace of the NHS, the BBC and Christian Aid. We have shared achievements that more than match those of any country anywhere in the world.
From Waterloo to the Second World War, our servicemen and women have fought and won together. The liberation of Europe was a battle fought to the skirl of the pipes, as Lord Lovat’s Highlanders were among the first ashore on D-Day in the battle to defeat Hitler. Your heroes are our heroes. Men like Robert Dunsire, who – twice in one day – crawled out of the trench facing a hail of bullets to rescue injured men at the Battle of Loos in the First World War. And Lance Corporal Liam Tasker: the dog handler who helped save so many lives in Afghanistan before tragically himself being shot.
The Union has never been about shackling different nations: it is a free partnership – a joint effort – often driven by Scottish ideas and Scottish leadership. From the industrial and commercial leadership of James Watt and Robert Owen centuries ago, to Sir Bill Gammell and Ian Wood today.
And in Westminster, think of the cause of progress and how it has depended on the voices of politicians from Scotland: whether it has been the liberalism of Henry Campbell-Bannerman or Joe Grimond; the progressive conservatism of Iain Macleod and George Younger; or the generous and humane radicalism of Donald Dewar and John Smith. Together we have turned a group of off shore European islands into one of the most successful countries in the world.
But it is not just about what we have achieved together; it is about who we are together. The ties of blood are actually growing thicker. Far from growing apart, we are growing together. There are now more Scots living in England, and English people living in Scotland, than ever before. And almost half of Scots now have English relatives. I am something of a classic case. My father’s father was a Cameron. My mother’s mother was a Llewellyn. I was born and have always lived in England: I am proud to be English. But like so many others too, I am proud to be British as well. Proud of the United Kingdom and proud of Scotland’s place within it.
But then there are the practical reasons for the Union to stay together. The United Kingdom helps to make Scotland – and all of us – stronger, safer, richer and fairer.
We are stronger, because through our shared Union, we count for more together in the world than we would ever count apart. We have a permanent place on the UN Security Council. We have real clout in NATO and in Europe. We have unique influence with key allies the world over. The Scottish pilots helped us to free Libya from tyranny, and prevented a failed pariah state festering on Europe’s southern border.
We are safer, not just because of the expertise and bravery of our armed forces, to which Scotland has always made such an immense contribution, but also because of our policing expertise and our security services respected the world over. When that bomb went off at Glasgow Airport, the full resources of the UK state went into running down every lead, and our tentacles reach from the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as into the CIA computers at Langley.
Now, we are richer because Scotland’s 5 million people are part of an economy of 60 million. An economy with no boundaries, borders, or customs, but instead a common system, of common rules and a common currency, which has helped to make us the 7th largest economy in the world. And far from growing apart, again, our economies are actually growing together. A fifth of all Scottish workers are employed by firms registered in Scotland but owned by companies based elsewhere in the United Kingdom. And Scotland sells twice as much to the rest of the UK as to the rest of the world put together.
And together we are not only stronger, safer, richer, I also believe we are fairer. Not just because we all benefit from being part of a properly-funded welfare system, with the resources to fund our pensions and our long-term health-care needs, but because there is real solidarity in our United Kingdom. When any part of the United Kingdom suffers a shock or a set-back, the rest of the country stands behind it. Whether it is floods in the West Country, severe weather in the north, or that economic dislocation that has hit different parts of our country in different times and in different ways, we are always there for each other. And together we have the power to do so much in the world to promote fairness.
One issue that is close to my heart is aid. And this is an issue where Scottish people have a huge influence. Together as a United Kingdom, we have the second biggest aid budget in the world. Through the UK, Scotland has a global reach to make our world fairer. And with that, we are saving thousands of lives and helping people in some of the poorest parts of the world to forge a new future, from the famine in the Horn of Africa to the support for people in North Africa and the Middle East as they seek new freedoms that we and others take for granted.
So, I believe there are emotional and practical reasons why Scotland is better off in the Union, and why we are all better off together than apart. But I do not think that is enough. I also understand why people in Scotland want to express their identity as Scots strongly, and to have greater control over their lives.
I believe in real devolution and I want to make devolution work better. I want a Scotland where more people own their own homes; where more people keep more of their money to spend as they choose; where more people have secure jobs and a secure future for their children. A Scotland where businesses can innovate and create the wealth and the opportunities that are so vital to local communities; and where we bring down the barriers to entrepreneurship that have for too long held Scotland back. I believe in devolution, not because I see it as a mechanism for obtaining power – hardly the case for my Party in Scotland – but because I believe in giving people choice and a real say over their own affairs. I passionately believe that local is best, and the decentralisation of power is one of the core aims of the Coalition government that I lead.
One of my first acts as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was to come here to Scotland to meet Alex Salmond and to show that I want the governments in Westminster and Holyrood – whoever they are and whichever Party they come from – to work together to get the best for Scotland, to listen to Scotland, to act on Scotland’s voice and govern in Scotland’s interests. On that first visit I said the only political input into senior Scottish civil service appointments, should come from the First Minister, and I delegated all my previous responsibility to the Cabinet Secretary. This was a small but I hope symbolic gesture of the kind of change I want to bring about.
Since then, ministers in Holyrood and Westminster have met regularly and soon a much bigger change will become law. The Scotland Bill has not, I believe, got the attention yet that it deserves, but it is an incredible opportunity for Scots. It is not London telling Edinburgh which powers it can have, but opening up Scotland’s choice to expand the powers that it needs. By implementing the recommendations of the Calman Commission, devolving new powers to the Scottish Parliament – including for the first time the ability to raise tax revenue and borrow for capital and current expenditure – the Scottish government is getting real choice over how and when to invest in long-term projects that will benefit future generations.
And let me say something else about devolution. This does not have to be the end of the road. When the referendum on independence is over, I am open to looking at how the devolved settlement can be improved further. And yes, that does mean considering what further powers could be devolved. But that must be a question for after the referendum, when Scotland has made its choice about the fundamental question of independence or the United Kingdom. When Scotland has settled this question once and for all – and ended the uncertainty that I believe could damage and hold back Scotland’s prospects and potential – then is the time for that issue.
So, I believe the strengths that have served us all through the centuries are precisely the ones that we need today. Our United Kingdom is a modern Union: it is one that evolves; one that protects us; one that allows our different nations to grow stronger; because we share the same secure foundations: institutions that celebrate diversity and turn it into a strength. Scotland’s greatest poet said we should ‘see ourselves as others see us’, and that is worth doing, because our Union is not some antique imposition: it is living; it is free; it is adaptable; it is admired around the world as a source of prosperity, power, and security. Just think for a moment: could you explain to someone in America, or France, or Australia what was so intolerable about Great Britain that we decided to build artificial barriers between our nations? I do not believe that the people of Scotland – any more than the people of any other part of the United Kingdom – want to turn inward and away from each other at this time.
I believe – indeed it is my reason for being in politics – that it is when you pull together, when you set aside difference, when you roll up your sleeves in a common endeavour, you achieve things that are truly worthwhile – even noble – which you could never accomplish on your own. For me, the principle that we work best when we work together, without coercion or conscription, bullying or bossiness, but in a spirit of shared service: that sums up what is best about our countries. That is what the United Kingdom stands for: common endeavour; being part of something bigger; a greater Britain which believes in the virtues of sharing, of standing together; and of making a difference for our fellow citizens; those things guide our every action. And if anything is worth fighting for, that surely is, which is why I am ready to fight for the life of this country. Thank you.
Do you regret that perhaps your Party and other political Parties have so allowed Alex Salmond to dominate this particular issue? And what are you going to do now to play catch-up, given that he and his party are so far better equipped to actually fight this referendum than you are?
Well, I think that actually, if you look at the range of Scottish politics, you see a whole number of Scottish Parties and politicians that, I believe, will come together and campaign for the United Kingdom. My voice is just one of those voices. You will see Labour politicians, Liberal Democrat politicians, and indeed people from all walks of life – and many people who do not like politics at all, who might even despise all politics and politicians – who will come forward and defend the United Kingdom. Do we need to do more? Yes. Do we need those of us who care about the United Kingdom to work together? Yes. Do we need to galvanise opinion across the country? Yes. But is that opinion there ready to be galvanised? Absolutely. I am quite convinced that the arguments – both of head and heart – for the United Kingdom are so strong that actually, when we make that appeal, we can win this campaign.
Now, I think one of the things that the government has done is actually to say that the question needs to be put. I think we have helped accelerate the debate and I think that is right, because I do not think it is fair on people in Scotland to have this question hanging over them: for it never to be asked or answered. So, the initiative that I have taken is to promote this and say: look, it is the last thing in the world I want for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom, but when you have majority SNP government in Scotland, it is right that the question is put, that the debate is held, and the question is answered. And that will be something I will say to Alex Salmond today. We cannot go on waiting for this: it is February 2012. Are we really going to wait until the end of 2014 or 2015 to hold this referendum? Do the Scottish people really want to have this sort of never-ending debate – more and more speeches like this one and others – before actually asking and answering the question? I think there is a strong case for saying a simple question – decisive, fair, straightforward, asked and answered in reasonable time – so people can get on with their lives.
You referred there in your speech, Prime Minister, to being open to devolving more powers to Scotland. Can you envisage the day when the Scottish Welfare Bill would be financed by the Scottish Parliament?
The point I am trying to make is this: that there is an ongoing debate about devolution, and there has been over the last 10 or 20 years. I am happy for that debate to continue, but I think we need to settle the independence question first. I do not think you can muddle the two questions. Now, what exactly should be devolved – what further powers would make sense, what fiscal settlement – that is, I think, for individual parties, individual people to discuss, to debate, and to decide. All I would say is I think that the Coalition Government and the Conservative Prime Minister have shown very good faith on this issue, in that actually, I think some people doubted, when I came to office, whether we really would deliver what was decided in the Calman process. Well, we have delivered it, as it were, on time and on budget, as they say. I think we have shown good faith that if people in Scotland come together and want to see devolution take place, then we are prepared to be part of that and deliver it. But I think it is a debate to be held after this independence issue is settled and done.
Beyond defence and foreign policy, which obviously you want to see shared, can you point to anything – you have raised the issue of more devolution – can you point to anything, any power that you think should be devolved? You talk about good faith but there will be plenty of people who look back at the long record of Conservatism and think you were not exactly leading the charge towards devolution. Can I just ask you one other thing? You talked about your voice a moment ago. Do you think your voice – being English, being as you have said before, from a privileged background – actually pulls in votes or potentially, actually, makes some people bristle when you talk about this issue and sound like you are telling Scotland where it should go?
Right. First of all, on the history of the Conservative Party and devolution, I have only been Prime Minister for two years. The government I led has actually undertaken one of the largest acts of devolution in the history of our great nation, so I am very happy to be judged on my record. There was a process – Calman – involving all of the parties that believed in the United Kingdom. There was quite a bold and radical outcome. There were lots of questions that I remember being asked on every visit I made to Scotland about, ‘Would you really deliver this?’ We have delivered it. So, I think people can see that my commitment and love for the United Kingdom is also about understanding that there are people in the United Kingdom who want to change the arrangements to make it work better. As a practical, rational, sensible Unionist, I am always happy to listen to those issues, and to work with others to bring them about.
On the issue of powers, I think we have to try and get the balance right. One of the things I was talking about in my speech is this issue of solidarity. I think this is important; I think that when we consider further devolution I hope we do not lose that solidarity, because I think when you look around Europe, for instance at the moment, you can see a lack of solidarity. Now when there are floods in Cornwall, or if there is a factory closure in East Kent, or if there is an economic problem on the West Coast of Scotland, or whatever it might be: we do not sit around asking, ‘Shall we help?’ and ‘Is this our responsibility? Do we want to be part of this package?’ as we do when it comes to some of the European issues. We just think, ‘This is our country, this is our United Kingdom; we have solidarity and we help each other’.
We are all talking and debating endlessly about the single currency and the Euro and what needs to change in the euro to make it work. We have got a working single currency, where we do not have to ask those questions in our United Kingdom, whether one region is competitive enough to make it work inside the single currency; because we have the fiscal union – the single currency – we have all the elements that make our United Kingdom work.
So of course I am happy – as I have said – to look at issues of devolution. I am sure there will be a debate after an independence referendum, if the answer to independence was no, but I hope we would not lose the solidarity that we have in our United Kingdom.
As for the fact that I am English, that I had a privileged upbringing and that I might annoy people by making a speech in Scotland; all I can say is this is what I believe – this is what I think – I care about our United Kingdom. People often say to me, ‘Do you know what, it would be much easier to be Prime Minister of England?’ My answer to that is, ‘I am not interested, I don’t care; that is not the job I want’. I want to have a United Kingdom where we all bring to the whole so much more than we would be separate.
My voice in this debate is going to be one of many. I hope that we hear from Alastair Darling, from John Reed, from Gordon Brown; I hope we hear from all politicians in all Parties and from people who have no political connection at all but who care about what the United Kingdom means to them. So all I am trying to do today is set out my own views and how I approach this subject; I hope in a way that helps to galvanise this debate as we come towards answering this vital question.
Prime Minister, just to come back to the questions that have been asked here, do you think it is quite fair to leave the question of what further powers might be granted in the event of a ‘no’ vote for two and a half years, which is effectively what it will be? At the moment there is a lot of discussion about a second question on the ballot paper which revolves around something that not many people understand called ‘devo-max’. The more that goes on, ‘devo max’ is something that possibly poses as much a threat to the present state of the United Kingdom as independence. So can you actually hold off being clearer about what you stand for as that debate gathers pace?
First of all I hope it is not two and a half years. I think the key thing here is that we have got an SNP government elected in Scotland and they believe in independence—separation—they believe in having a referendum on separation; the legal situation is that is difficult for the Scottish Parliament to deliver under the law. So in Westminster the UK government is saying we will give you that power but, for heaven’s sake, for the sake of the Scottish people and for all our sanity, let’s get on and hold this question, hold this debate – do we really have to wait two and a half years?
I feel a lot of the arguments are quite well known already and I am sure we can all add to them over the period, but let’s get on and have the debate, put the question, and then I think it is rational to have a debate about further devolution. I do not think you should muddle up the two questions, because one is a fundamental ‘in or out’ question, where the second one is a question that does involve the whole of the United Kingdom and does involve inevitably, as you say, a debate where we look at all the different issues and try and work out what the Parties who support the United Kingdom would like to do. So I think you have to settle one before moving onto the other.
Just for clarity, Prime Minister, are you saying that you will go into the next election promising more powers for the Scottish Parliament and, if so, what will these powers be? And, on another subject, you are ultimately responsible for HMRC and HMRC are currently chasing Rangers Football Club for millions of pounds, do you want that bill paid promptly or would you urge HMRC to negotiate with Rangers so that this beleaguered club can perhaps carry on?
First of all, on the powers, I don’t think I have really got anything to add. I think we have to settle the question of separation altogether first, then I think we can go on and discuss as we did with the Scotland Act whether the balance we have now is right or whether we could improve matters in any other way. And I think it is right for the different Party leaders and Party leaders in Scotland to make their views known throughout this process about what they think of that issue. But I want to be very clear, the choice is separation on the one hand or our United Kingdom and further options for devolution on the other. I think it would be completely wrong to have mixed questions on the ballot paper and I will make that view very clear to the First Minister when I see him. I think it would be very confusing for people.
On the issue of Rangers Football Club, this means a huge amount to many people in Scotland, I completely understand that, no one wants to see—and I certainly don’t want to see—Rangers Football Club disappear. There are discussions underway between HMRC and the administrator; I hope they can be successfully completed and I hope that there will be a strong and successful future for Rangers. I am sure that is the right thing to happen and we need to do everything we can to make sure that does happen.
For financial services, which is an important industry up here, uncertainty is our greatest enemy. There are some very key issues which we need clarity on before we are going to know whether independence is good or bad. You have touched on some of them: prudential regulation of the banks; lender of last resort. Whilst not asking you for answers on those questions today, do you believe that it is likely we will get an answer or answers that we can use prior to the referendum or will we have to go into the referendum without knowing the answers to those very key questions for both running the economy and indeed running our industry?
That is a very important question. I think the role I want to play is to make a very positive case, which is what I believe, for the United Kingdom. I think there are then a series of separate questions that need to be set out in this forthcoming campaign: what happens in terms of defence forces, what happens in terms of businesses, how banks and financial services are regulated, how Scotland’s currency arrangements would work either inside the euro or in a pound sterling area but without a central bank that would take account of that area when setting interest rates.
I think there is a whole series of questions that have to be answered and the sense I have is that people in Scotland really want to get hold of the factual information that would lead them to make the best possible decision. I am sure that all of those questions can be asked and answered and frankly I don’t think it takes two and a half years to answer them, I think it can be done in a shorter period. And for the certainty of firms wanting invest in Scotland I hope we can try and truncate that period somewhat so that it is not too much of an uncertain period. But I think it is very important that all those questions are asked and answered in a rational and sensible way.
If you offered more powers to Scotland after a referendum, assuming that they stayed within the United Kingdom, would you use that as an opportunity to revisit the rest of the Union and the powers that England and the other parts of the United Kingdom have and their relationship to each other?
The way that powers and indeed finance are settled within a United Kingdom is inevitably a matter for all of the United Kingdom to be part of that debate, whereas the question of separation, or togetherness, is actually a question for the Scottish people. That is one of the reasons why I think you have to answer the separation question before you go onto powers, money and everything else. So I think it has to be done in that order; I don’t believe that every part of the United Kingdom has to operate devolution in exactly the same way.
We have a situation in Wales where we have just had a referendum – again proof that the government is listening to people and their demands for greater devolution and greater local control – but we have a situation in Wales which is different to the situation in Scotland and indeed when you talk to the Party leaders in Wales they don’t want to exactly mirror the arrangements in Scotland. But, as I say, while that is the case it is a legitimate interest of the different parts of the United Kingdom, the outcome of the devolution debate, whereas the issue of separation altogether is a matter for the Scottish people and a matter that shall be put to them in a referendum, hopefully not too long off.
Anyway, thank you very much for coming, thank you for your questions. I am sure this is going to be a debate where there will be further additions and contributions, but I hope that you have heard from me today what is a positive case for the United Kingdom; to me, this is all about saying yes to the United Kingdom rather than having a negative agenda. I hope we can keep the debate at that level because when we think of all the things we have done together the debate should be at that level of achievement of our great United Kingdom rather than thinking bad or negative thoughts. Thank you very much indeed.
In the past I've been highly critical of the BBC's sloppy coverage of devolved issues. But today I would like to heap praise on them because in all their coverage of Cameron's 'Troubled Families' speech - whether on radio, TV or the internet, the BBC has specified that it pertains to England. For example:
David Cameron says he is determined to "get to grips" with tackling England's most troubled families by pledging a network of troubleshooters.
Unfortunately, in order to correctly convey the territorial extent of this Government initiative to the public, the BBC has been factually incorrect because Cameron did not specify that it was troubled families in England that he was determined to "get to grips" with. True to form Cameron was unable to utter the word 'England' and instead fell back on the ambiguous term 'the country'.
A casual reader of 'The Official Site of the British Prime Minister's Office' might expect references to 'the country' to be shorthand for the whole of Britain. But no, for Cameron, and for the sake of expediency, 'the country' is England, and England is the country. He even trails his speech with the byline "We need a social recovery in Britain every bit as much as we need an economic one", irrespective of the fact the 'nationwide task' that he goes on to trumpet is only nationwide in respect to England.
Anyway, thank you BBC for providing political clarity where none was intended.
A clipping from David Cameron's personal promotional material from the 2005 Conservative leadership election (see Phil Taylor's blog).
In an interview with the Spectator last week, David Cameron gave the first hint that he may be prepared to call a referendum on Scottish independence himself.
One place where the coalition could soon have a problem is Scotland, where the SNP First Minister Alex Salmond is doing all he can to prepare the ground for independence. Cameron isn’t yet prepared to call Salmond’s bluff and call a referendum now, but he indicates that his patience is limited. ‘I want to treat the First Minister and his government with respect, I think it’s the right thing to do but if the whole of the next few years becomes about tussling rather than governing then there may be a moment where we have to say, okay, we need to answer this question properly but I don't think we’re there at the moment.’
Which makes the timing of John Major's rare intervention all the more interesting. Gerry Hassan tells us that "John Major is seen as close to David Cameron, respected by him, and thought on some issues to advise and seen as influential in senior governmental circles". And James Forsyth in the Spectator speculates that David Cameron is using John Major as an out rider: "the last Tory Prime Minister advances an idea that allows the current one to gauge opinion on it".
So what is it that John Major has suggested that David Cameron might be interested in gauging public opinion on:
"The present quasi-federalist settlement with Scotland is unsustainable. Each year of devolution has moved Scotland further from England. Scottish ambition is fraying English tolerance. This is a tie that will snap - unless the issue is resolved.
"The union between England and Scotland cannot be maintained by constant aggravation in Scotland and appeasement in London. I believe it is time to confront the argument head on.
"Why not devolve all responsibilities except foreign policy, defence and management of the economy? Why not let Scotland have wider tax-raising powers to pay for their policies and, in return, abolish the present block grant settlement, reduce Scottish representation in the Commons, and cut the legislative burden at Westminster?
"My own view on Scottish independence is very straightforward: it would be folly - bad for Scotland and bad for England - but, if Scots insist on it, England cannot - and should not - deny them."
"I believe it is time to confront the argument head on". Is that a call for a Scottish refendum on Westminster's terms? Is it a call for even greater Scottish autonomy - Independence Lite - in return for reduced representation in the Imperial Parliament? It would seem so.
If John Major really is testing the water for David Cameron, then this speech is historic. It marks the beginnings of a new mainstream strand of Conservative thought whose endpoint is outright independence or, if that is to be avoided, whose only logical departure from the motorway to full independence is a federalism that puts to bed the 'present quasi-federalist settlement'.
It's worth reminding ourselves of Conservative arguments against devolution. The following is from the Conservatives' Scottish manifesto (1997) under John Major:
The Labour and Liberal plans to create a Scottish parliament must be rejected because:
Scottish influence in the British parliament and government would be weakened - with the inevitable loss of the office of Secretary of State for Scotland and a large cut in the number of Scottish MPs at Westminster - already admitted by the Liberal Democrats.
Scotland's influence in Europe would be devalued - at present Scotland has a strong voice in Europe, with Scottish Office ministers able to lead the entire United Kingdom delegation where appropriate. According to Robin Cook, following devolution, ministers in the Scottish parliament would only have "observer status".
An extra tartan Tax imposed uniquely on Scotland - would make Scotland the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom and a less attractive place for companies to locate; penalising those on lower wages; taxing Scottish savings - including pensioners' hard-earned life savings - at a 15% higher rate; undermining the competitiveness of Scotland's financial institutions; creating inflationary pressures as workers seek higher wages to pay the extra tax; and creating an unprecedented tax regime within the United Kingdom - the precursor of separatism.
Financial tensions would be created between a Scottish parliament and Westminster - a Scottish parliament, having raised public expectations about what it was capable of achieving, would demand extra money from Westminster. The consequent strife would endanger Scotland's funding, 97% of which would be determined at Westminster.
The West Lothian Question would poison democrat government - with Scottish MPs entitled to vote on English matters at Westminster, while English MPs were debarred from voting on Scottish issues. With Scottish affairs dealt with elsewhere, Scottish MPs would become second class citizens in parliament.
Tensions between a Scottish parliament and local government would be created - it is inevitable that a Scottish parliament would centralise many of the powers held by councils, reversing our policy of giving more powers to local authorities; Checks and balances on Scottish legislation would be removed - the proposed tax-raising parliament would have no revising chamber.
Scots would have to pay for another parliament and more politicians - £80 million to begin with and £40 million every year to be raised through the Tartan Tax or be cut from vital services such as health or eduction.
A donation box at Chichester Cathedral.
A comment by David Cameron to a Northern Irish audience.
And Northern Ireland continues to receive 25 per cent more per head in public spending than England.
David Cameron's Speech to the Ulster Unionist Party (Saturday, December 6, 2008)
A new political force in Northern Ireland
It’s a great pleasure to be here in Belfast.
Today we come together – Conservatives and Unionists – to create a dynamic new political and electoral force, a new force to cement Northern Ireland’s position as a peaceful, prosperous and confident part of our United Kingdom.
I want to talk to you about the future we’re going to build together.
But before I do, I need to answer a very simple question:
Why am I here?
Why do I want us to take this radical step?
Why has my team been working so hard to make this happen?
Put simply, why is this new force so important to me and my Party?
These are good questions.
There are some who’d wonder why we are tying our parties together.
For those who see politics and all it can achieve through the prism of dry electoral data, it might seem a waste of time.
After all, we’ve only got a small presence in Northern Ireland, so why not focus instead on building our base in England?
Today I want to tell you why I utterly reject this view and the whole notion of no-go areas for the Conservative Party and explain why I believe that Conservatives and Unionists are better together than apart.
It comes down to three things.
A deep commitment to the Union.
A strong belief in democracy.
And a great respect for the Ulster Unionist Party.
Let me take each of those in turn.
First, the Union.
I’ve never been a little Englander.
I passionately believe in the Union and the future of the whole United Kingdom.
We’re better off together – England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland – because we all bring our strengths to the mix.
When I fly into Belfast and see the great cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipyard I’m reminded what an incredible part Northern Ireland played in our past.
When I’m walking through the Glens of Antrim I’m moved by some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK today.
When I visit one of Northern Ireland’s thriving social enterprises - now employing over 30,000 workers – I know that the ideas, energy and enthusiasm of these entrepreneurs will help us build a better Britain for the future.
It’s a union built around shared belonging, shared past and a shared destiny.
But standing up for the Union isn’t just about expressing our important feelings about our shared heritage.
It’s also a rational argument based on mutual interest.
Together, we are the fifth largest economy in the world.
Together, we have a seat at the top table and are listened to in a way that other countries can only dream of.
Together, we have one of only five permanent seats of the United Nations Security Council.
Together we are a major player in the EU, in NATO and other international organisations.
And together, we have the British military - one of the most respected armed forces in the world.
Northern Ireland punches above its weight in Britain's armed forces and Britain punches above its weight in the world because of the expertise and bravery of those forces.
Indeed, nothing embodies the Union better than our military bonds.
Last century, when we stood alone against a deadly threat to all we hold dear, we stood alone together.
The servicemen of our islands fought together in every single theatre of the Second World War.
They were led from the front by a strikingly high number of senior British officers with roots in Northern Ireland: Sir John Dill, Sir Alan Brooke, Sir Harold Alexander, Sir Bernard Montgomery.
As Churchill affirmed, 'the bonds of affection between Great Britain and the people of Northern Ireland have been tempered by fire'.
That is not some rhetoric belonging to the past.
A few weeks ago, you welcomed home to this city the brave men and women of the Royal Irish Regiment.
All of them heroes – risking their lives thousands of miles away protect our security at home.
We rightly salute them for their courage and professionalism as we do those who over thirty long years paid the ultimate price to protect democracy and the rule of law here in Northern Ireland.
We owe them an immense debt of gratitude.
Not just here, but throughout these islands.
We will never forget.
The first Member of Parliament who ever represented me was Airey Neave.
One of the first politicians I ever wrote a speech for was Ian Gow.
Both men were great Conservatives – and they were great Unionists.
Both died for their devotion to the Union.
I suspect there isn’t a single person in this room who hasn’t been affected in some way by terrorism.
Of course Northern Ireland bears most of the scars from those days but when I think of Airey Neave and Ian Gow, or the likes of Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball in Warrington, I am reminded that the fight against terrorism wasn’t just your fight, it was the fight of unionists and democrats everywhere.
We were all in it together.
And we came through it together.
So for me coming here and joining our parties is not a matter of political calculation.
It’s about strengthening those unbreakable bonds that bind our union.
I’m also here as a strong believer in democracy, with a desire to see that deepen across our islands.
For as long as anyone can remember, politics here has been dominated by constitutional issues – the Union, or the latest developments in the peace process.
Many people have been put off from participating in a politics based on division.
Others still haven’t bothered to vote.
But the constitutional certainty that Northern Ireland now enjoys opens the opportunity for that to change and for normal politics to develop.
Normal politics in which people in Northern Ireland can participate at all levels of government in the United Kingdom, from the council chamber right the way to the cabinet table itself.
I support devolution and want to see the Stormont Executive succeed.
In Reg Empey and Michael McGimpsey you have two outstanding ministers.
Together you control nearly 60 per cent of the Assembly budget.
It’s in good hands.
But people in Northern Ireland need to be involved in decisions about their lives that are not devolved: taxation, public expenditure, pensions, the broad thrust of social policy, defence and foreign affairs.
As things stand, Northern Ireland MPs are effectively excluded from exerting a real influence on any of these matters.
This is not true representative democracy and it has got to change.
That’s not just in the interests of Northern Ireland – it’s in the interests of the United Kingdom.
It’s in my own selfish interests, too.
I want the most talented people to form my government and that will mean people from all corners of the UK.
Why are there great Ulstermen and women on our television screens, in our boardrooms and in our military but not in our Cabinet?
The semi-detached status of Northern Ireland politics needs to end.
It’s time for Northern Ireland to be brought back into the mainstream of British politics.
Northern Ireland needs MPs who have a real prospect of holding office as ministers in a Westminster government.
That’s what a dynamic new political force of Conservatives and Unionists offers a revival of real democracy across the United Kingdom.
ULSTER UNIONIST PARTY
So: a commitment to the union, a belief in democracy.
These aren’t the only reasons I’m here today.
There’s also my great respect for the Ulster Unionist Party.
Today, Northern Ireland can look forward to a brighter future in which its best days lie ahead.
Many people, on all sides, deserve credit for that.
The Irish and American governments deserve our thanks for their contributions over many years.
But let me pay a particular tribute to the Ulster Unionist Party, to Reg Empey’s leadership and to other leaders of the past.
It is largely through your efforts that Northern Ireland’s constitutional position is settled.
The consent principle is paramount, enshrined in national and international law.
Nationalists and republicans now work with Unionists in a shared administration at Stormont.
The territorial claim in the Irish constitution is gone.
The relationship with the Irish Republic is of the kind one would expect of two neighbours that share a land border.
None of these things would have been achieved but for the steadfastness of your Party, your willingness to engage and take risks.
You have helped to bring about a situation in which life for most people in Northern Ireland is unrecognisable from what it was a few years ago.
That’s why I’m here today – for the union, for democracy and for the Ulster Unionist Party.
We now have the chance to forge ahead and build a new, and better, Northern Ireland, economically, socially, and politically.
This is our dream, but how do we get there?
How do we combine to create a modern, moderate centre-right force that promotes the United Kingdom?
The links between our two parties are long and intimate.
We stood side by side at times of crisis.
As with any long relationship we’ve had our disagreements, and our misunderstandings.
I acknowledge that we’ve all made mistakes – and I regret that.
But today is not a time for dwelling on the past.
It’s for looking to the future.
The future we can build as Conservatives and Unionists together.
A fortnight ago, your executive and the Conservative Party’s Northern Ireland Area Council approved a paper drawn up by the working group that we set up in July.
I want to pay tribute here to the work of Owen Paterson and David Campbell, and to Neil Johnston and the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland.
Thanks to your efforts we look forward to offering a new choice to the people of Northern Ireland.
First at the European elections – where it is essential we see Jim Nicholson returned to the Conservative Group in Strasbourg – and then at the General Election.
We will be the only party contesting every seat in every part of the United Kingdom on one joint manifesto.
THE CONSERVATIVE AND UNIONIST PARTY
And let’s be clear about what this new political force stands for.
Yes of course it’s a party of the union – that’s what brings us together.
But this is also a strong centre-right force for modern Conservatism that people can vote for in every part of the United Kingdom.
A party that believes in enterprise, because we know that it’s people that create wealth and jobs, not government.
A party that is passionately committed to improving our National Health Service and education system, because we want to live in a civilised society that cares for the sick and nurtures the young.
A party that supports the family, because we know that loving parents are the best welfare state there is.
A party that says there is such a thing as society, just that it isn’t the same thing as the state.
A party that believes in progressive ends and social justice but understands that Conservative means are the best way of achieving them.
A party that celebrates Britain for what it has been, for what it is today and what it can be in the future.
And a party that will not duck the long-term challenges we face – be they climate change, fixing our broken society or repairing the economic mess that Gordon Brown has created through his debt-fuelled
A modern, outward-looking, inclusive, compassionate Conservative and Unionist party for the 21st century.
I recognise, of course, that within the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland has its own special needs and priorities.
Yes we’re a party of the Union, but we need to make devolution work.
The agreement that’s been reached on the process for the transfer of policing and justice powers is welcome.
Now that the executive is meeting again there is much for it to tackle.
In all the areas that are devolved to Stormont, Ulster Unionist Ministers will continue to deliver better services for local people depending on local priorities.
There is no question of me seeking to impose ideas from London.
That’s not the way I work and it’s not the way we do things in Scotland or Wales either.
I believe in making devolution work head, heart and soul.
But we can learn from each other.
So I will be asking members of my shadow teams to work with your spokesmen, to see where we can develop common approaches.
Because let’s face it.
Many of the social problems we see here are the same as in other parts of the United Kingdom.
Only this week Iain Duncan Smith was visiting some of the most deprived parts of Belfast.
So we’ll work together as Conservatives and Unionists.
But there are things that only Westminster has the power to do.
For example, keeping taxes as low as possible by getting irresponsible government borrowing under control.
Providing real help for businesses through the recession, such as VAT holidays to help small firms with their cashflow.
Cutting the small companies tax rate to 20 per cent and the main rate to 25 per cent.
Reducing employers’ national insurance rates by one per cent for the smallest firms.
And a “tax break for jobs” scheme to reward companies that take on new staff.
Real help for business during a time of real need.
Not the “borrow now, tax later” approach of Gordon Brown.
And one more thing.
A Conservative Government led by me will look at those issues – such as the shared land border with the Irish Republic – that affect inward investment and Northern Ireland’s economic competitiveness.
Northern Ireland has made great strides forward over the past fifteen years.
The paramilitary campaigns have ended.
New investment has come in.
Devolution has been restored.
For the first time in over a generation we can all look forward to a shared future underpinned by democracy and the rule of law.
As Prime Minister I will always honour Britain’s international obligations.
I will continue to work closely and constructively with our nearest neighbours in the Republic of Ireland and I will always uphold the democratic wishes of people here in respect of their constitutional future.
But I will never be neutral when it comes to expressing my support for the Union.
So, today, let us pledge ourselves to come together as Conservatives and Unionists in a new and dynamic political force in Northern Ireland.
For the good of our parties.
But, above all, for the good of the people and our United Kingdom.
David Cameron's Speech to Scottish Conservative Party Conference, Friday May 23, 2008
"It's great to be here in Ayr. This is a town with a special place in the hearts of Conservatives. Ayr was ably represented for so many years by that great Scottish Tory, George Younger. It is also the home base of one of our Party's most redoubtable fighters, Phil Gallie. And it was the scene of a famous by-election victory in 2000 when John Scott won the Scottish Parliamentary seat from Labour.
"Down south it's taken us a bit longer to get the hang of by-elections. But I think you'll agree that in a seat that was labour for 30 years, in the north of England where they said we couldn't win, with a Labour campaign that threw every bit of dirt, class war and scare tactics at us, after the Prime Minister brought forward his entire legislative programme and a mini budget to spend 3 billion of your money to try and save his own skin.
"After all that, when we ended our by election drought - as we did last night in Crewe and Nantwich - we did it in some style.
"I've been keeping a close eye on what's been going on in Scotland. There's certainly a fight going on. And here's the tale of tape as I see it.
"In the blue corner, there's Annabel Goldie. The best performer in Holyrood, unwavering and unstinting, leading a strong and united team, dedicated to standing up for the best interests of Scotland and Scottish people.
"They got extra police, cuts in business rates and more drug rehabilitation. That's the Conservative Party - and Conservative principles - in action.
"And then, in the red corner, there's Wendy Alexander, not exactly steady on her feet …. quite liable to knock herself out.
"First she opposed a referendum on independence. Then she did a u-turn and said "bring it on." Then Gordon Brown u-turned on that u-turn. Then Wendy Alexander u-turned on Gordon Brown's u-turn on the first u-turn.
"You still with this? I'm not. You don't know whether to laugh - or cry. Knowing Wendy, she's doing both.
"So that's it. That's the bout. It's Solid Goldie versus Bendy Wendy. If I was the referee, I'd stop the fight right now.
"This would be funny if it wasn't so serious. Labour think they're being clever. What they've actually done is put the Union under greater threat.
"To play games by calling for a referendum right at the moment when people would take any opportunity to give the most unpopular Government in living memory a good kicking, isn't clever, isn't good politics, isn't defending the Union. It's absolutely reckless - and we should have no part of it.
"And that's what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the future of the Union. And I want to talk about the future of the Conservative Party. And I want to show how these two things are inextricably linked.
"We - the Conservative Party - are a party of the Union and a part of the Union - and we've got to play a leading role in defending the Union - because, heaven knows, Labour won't. And I want to explain what playing our part means. It means continuing what we've started - changing our Party so we can change our country. It means setting our minds to the great challenges both England and Scotland face. Above all, it means recognising that the Conservative Party is at its best when it's talking about - and acting upon - our country's future prosperity and future progress.
"But to start, we've got to be completely frank. The simple truth is that the Union between England and Scotland is under attack as never before. Whether we like it or not, the ugly stain of separatism is seeping through the Union flag. And it's up to serious politicians to put their cards on the table.
"Let me make it one hundred percent clear: I am passionate about the Union. I don't want to be the Prime Minister of England. I want to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom - all of it, including Scotland.
"I absolutely believe we are stronger together, and weaker apart, and I will do anything and everything to keep our two countries as one. And that means addressing one-by-one the deeper questions that are fuelling separatism.
"Now, there are some would simply blame constitutional and economic arrangements between England and Scotland. 'Sort out West Lothian, renegotiate Barnett, and everything will be fine' they say. Sorry, I don't think that's an adequate explanation for the separatism we're seeing today.
"The West Lothian question and Barnett Formula have been around and been debated for decades - don't tell me it's only now that they've lit the separatist touchpaper. Of course, that doesn't mean we should ignore them. It's essential that we find answers to any unfairness in the Union - and to questions of accountability, justice and democracy. And unlike Labour - who sweep it under the carpet and hope it goes away - we will take those questions seriously. I am confident it will be possible to develop an arrangement whereby, when the House of Commons considers matters that affect only English constituencies, it is English MPs who have the decisive say.
"But let me say this: if it should ever come to a choice between constitutional perfection and the preservation of our nation, I know my choice. Better an imperfect union than a broken one. Better an imperfect union than a perfect divorce. My answer is simple: I choose the United Kingdom.
"The Union is in danger for other reasons too. There is, of course, the question of identity. The number of people who think themselves British - ahead of Scottish or English - is in decline. People no longer look to the Union flag for their sense of belonging - they look to the cross of St.George or the Saltire … if anything at all.
"It doesn't have to be like this. Being British is one of the most successful examples of inclusive civic nationalism in the world. We can be a shining example of what a multi-ethnic, multi-faith and multi-national society can and should be. And the challenge now is to renew that sense of belonging.
"It's vital we get this right. As so often, Gordon Brown gets it wrong. He approaches the question of national identity like an advertising exec. So we have citizen's juries - focus groups - to decide what it means to be British. We have a competition to come up with a motto for Britain. And we have the attempt to replace the National Anthem.
"It all goes to show: Gordon Brown's view of Britishness is mechanical, not organic, it's something to be redesigned, repackaged and relaunched by Whitehall, not something which lives in our hearts.
"He talks about British values - liberty, fair play, openness. He's right, but these are general, unspecific, almost universal. What the Prime Minister's response lacks is the emotional connection with the institutions that define Britishness. These institutions are the vital part of what it means to be British.
Our armed forces.
"I have to say to the Prime Minister, you don't stand up for Britishness when you weaken our Army by destroying the Scottish regiments. And you don't stand up for Britishness when you undermine our Houses of Parliament by passing more and more power to Brussels without giving people the referendum you promised. Britishness is a matter of instinct, not calculation, and the sooner we have a Government that is willing to stand up for, and take pride in, that instinct then the sooner we can fight the forces of separation.
"But let us also acknowledge this truth. We will serve neither our Party's interest - nor the Union's interests - if we think this is enough. The Conservative Party is, and always has been, a party of the Union. Its fortunes are wrapped in ours. When we succeed - the Union succeeds. In the 1950s, when the Conservative Party was at its strongest in Scotland, the Union was at its strongest.
"But when we fail - we weaken the Union. You know what I mean. I don't want to stand here and talk about the mistakes that were made in the 1980s - I've said it before and that's all in the past. But let's recognise - for the strength of our Union - that it's vital that we succeed again now. And I'm one hundred percent clear about how our Party has always succeeded - and will succeed.
"Yes, we're a party of the centre-right - of enterprise, of families, of self-reliance, common sense and practicality. But that's not enough. We really succeed when we're the party of everyone - rich, poor, young, old, urban, and rural. And most of all, we really succeed when we're the party of the future - the party of progress.
"Just think about it: when has our Party served Britain best? It's when we have relentlessly pursued progressive ideals. We're the party of Wilberforce, who brought down slavery. We're the party of Peel, who took on vested interests, repealed the corn laws and brought cheap food to everyone. We're the party of Disraeli, who spoke of One Nation, stood up for the poor and cleared the slums. We're the party of Churchill, Macmillan and Eden who took on fascism across the continent, and built and sold homes to create a property-owning democracy. And we're the party of Margaret Thatcher, who rejected decline, refused to live in the past and who freed up our economy and stood up for aspiration for all.
"And that spirit, that determination, that drive to be on the side of progress, on the side of freedom, on the side of giving everyone the opportunity to make the most of their lives is what should fire us in the 21st century too. Not only because it will make our Union stronger - by joining everyone into a shared purpose of fighting our social ills. Not only because it is the right thing to do - because a country where someone's life story is written before they are even born is a tragedy for us all. But because history - because social, technological and economic change - is on our side.
"We have both the will - and the means. In the twenty-first century - the century of opportunity, of the information revolution, where people have and want more power and control over their lives - progressive ends will best be met through conservative means.
"Let me explain what I mean. Take fighting poverty. No one can deny Labour's sincerity when it comes to erasing poverty from our land. And it would be churlish to say they haven't achieved anything. Giving low paid people more money through tax credits has helped lift many out of poverty. But for too many it's been about taking people from just below the poverty line to just above it - and when there's 600,000 more people in severe poverty now than there were in 1997, it's clear Labour's methods have run their course.
"What we've got to do now is get to grips with the persistent causes of poverty - not just the symptoms. We've got to tackle head on the family breakdown, the drug addiction and the debt which traps people into a life of deprivation. And how can we do that? Through Conservative means.
"Using our tax system to help make Britain the most family-friendly place on Earth, so young kids get the best and most loving start in life. Reforming our welfare system so people out of work really get the help they need to get off benefits - and yes, some pretty tough sanctions so that anyone swinging the lead can't live a life on welfare if they're able to work. Tackling the causes of poverty means sorting out our prisons so we focus not just on sentencing but also rehabilitation, giving people the chance to move away from a life of addiction, poverty and crime to one of hope and opportunity. And it means recognising that in all these areas; voluntary bodies, charities, social enterprises - they aren't the third sector - they are often the first and best sector….
"See what I mean? Progressive ends. Conservative means.
"What about the key progressive aim of protecting our environment? As Conservatives, this comes naturally to us. Passing on an inheritance to future generations is what we're about. So how are we going to do it? Of course, there's a role for government to set the framework, establish the targets for carbon reduction and lead by example - especially internationally. But leave this to Labour, and you'd think this was it. The truth is, real environmental transformation will only come when we harness the Conservative means to that progressive end. Setting a price for carbon in our economy. Creating a market so our best businesses and best minds come up with the products and services that will transform our environment and our economy. Creating incentives and profits for innovation and research - so we lead the green revolution like we did the industrial one a century and a half ago. When Conservatives look out from Aberdeen, we don't see depleted North Sea oil fields we see the ideal location for Carbon Capture and Storage, so we secure our energy supplies, protect our planet and lead the world in the new technology.
"See what I mean? Progressive ends. Conservative means.
"And what about the most fundamental progressive ideal of all? Equal opportunity and real social mobility. The idea that no one should be imprisoned by the circumstances of their birth. The idea that you can go from the very bottom to the very top. We all know that outside the home the real engine of social mobility are schools.
"And again, let's not dismiss Labour's record. Our schools needed investment and they gave it. But the approach that says - it's just money plus endless central direction has run its course. The Chief Inspector of Schools told us this much in plain terms, education standards have stalled.
"So what's the answer? It's time to open up the state monopoly to new providers, to new ideas and new pioneers - so that people with a passion for giving children the best opportunities can set up new schools. It's time to recognise that every child is different so they should be taught according to their ability, with setting in every school. It's time to make every Headteacher the captain of their ship, so they can really create disciplined and ordered learning environments.
"See what I mean? Progressive ends. Conservative means.
"This is why it's so exciting to be a Conservative right now. Not because we're doing well in the polls - though, of course, that's good. Not because we've got the strongest team in Parliament - though, of course, we have. But because we're coming up with the plans to help with the cost of living, to take up the fight against crime, and to really reform and improve our public services. Because we're leading the intellectual agenda. Because we're winning the battle of ideas.
"And it's absolutely vital that we lead that agenda and win this battle in every corner of the United Kingdom - including right here, in Scotland. At the moment, Scottish people have no choice.
"On the one side is the establishment Labour Party, offering big state solutions and endless interference into peoples' lives. And on the other side is the disestablishment SNP, making up for rhetoric on the dismemberment of the Union what they lack in intellectual coherence on any other subject.
"What Scotland is crying out for is a strong, sensible and moderate centre-right party. A Party that says yes, we're for the Union - for England and Scotland together as one. A Party that says yes, we back families, we'll take the fight to crime and we'll always remember that it's your money, not ours, that we're spending. But also a Party that stands up for progressive ideals, like tackling poverty, unlocking social mobility and protecting our planet. We can be that party. For the sake of the Union - we must be that party.
"So, to Alex Salmond, I say this. I know you've got a plan. I know you think a Conservative government at Westminster will ignore what Scotland wants and needs, and that you will use such claims to promote your separatist agenda.
"Well, think again. We've got the vision. We've got the ideas And we've got the ambition. And to the people of Scotland, I make this guarantee. Whatever the outcome in Scotland of the next General Election, a Conservative Government will govern the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland, with respect. Whoever is Scotland's First Minister, I would be a Prime Minister who acts on the voice of the Scottish people, and will work tirelessly for consent and consensus so we strengthen the Union.
"As we already are with the Calman Commission, we will work to see how the devolved settlement can be improved upon so it builds on what we have, takes it forward and continues to deliver for the people of Scotland.
"So after we've just won our first by-election victory in a quarter of a century. In a constituency which had been Labour for sixty years and in which no one gave us a hope. At a time when people said that the Conservatives couldn't do the North.
"Now is the time for us - the Conservative Party - to stand up and say there really are no no-go areas for us anymore. Right here, in Scotland, we can be the force that defends the Union. We can be the force that delivers on progressive ideals. We can be the force that makes Scotland - makes the United Kingdom - stronger, richer and fairer. We can be. We must be. And, together, renewed, rejuvenated, reinvigorated by our great success this year, we will be.