Alex Massie

Cameron Ducks His Own Scottish Question

Text settings

Since the NHS is a subject even more boring than American healthcare, I was more interested by the Prime Minister's response to a question from Angus MacNeill that, though I might have worded it differently, was a perfectly reasonable query that deserved better than the non-answer given by the Prime Minister. This was their exchange:

Angus MacNeil: Last week in Edinburgh the Prime Minister said there were more powers on the table for Scotland but couldn’t name any. A few months ago he mocked the idea of Scotland controlling its own oil wealth. In the Scotland Bill, even the Crown Estate was too big. Can the Prime Minister now name one power that he has on his mind from his latest u-turn.

David Cameron: I didn’t think that the SNP favoured devolution. I thought that they favoured separation, yet as soon as you're offered a referendum that gives you a chance to put that in front of the Scottish people they start running away.

Oh dear. Not good enough. What is the Prime Minister's vision for devolution after the referendum? It's a fair question and one which punters are entitled to expect him to be able to answer. That he either cannot or will not does not bode well.

Furthermore, he should cease this nonsense about "offering" the SNP - that is, Scotland - a referendum. He could have done that before the SNP won the last Scottish parliamentary election; once they had done so the refrendum was no longer in Mr Cameron's gift or control. Indeed, like the rest of his foolish party, the Prime Minister opposed a referendum until events forced it upon him. And for all that he chunters about there being no need to wait until 2014 to hold the bally thing it seems, on present evidence, that we'll have to wait until at least then to discover his own views about a refreshed devolution settlement.

If, as Mr Cameron hinted last week, the choice is not between independence and the status quo but between independence and some form of "further powers" then, by god, it would be useful to know what he means. At some point he will need an aswer for Mr MacNeill's question. Having one sooner rather than later would be best.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.