At the risk of seeming parochial, I’d suggest that David Cameron’s long-awaited Europe speech and his endorsement of an In or Out referendum has implications and consequences for another referendum campaign closer to home. I suspect he has bought himself some time on the Europe question but this comes at a price. He has made winning the Battle for Britain – to be decided in 2014 – more difficult.
The SNP should be very pleased today. Cameron has demolished a couple of core Unionist arguments. He can no longer credibly point to the unknown uncertainties of Scottish independence. Not when he has embraced, even made a point of celebrating, uncertainty regarding Britain’s membership of the EU. And at Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon he also appeared to tear down the notion that an independent Scotland would necessarily or automatically have to agree to join the eurozone.
All this is fine as far as it goes. But the price of extricating himself from a euro-hole is digging a fresh Scottish hole for himself. That’s something I talked about in my Think Scotland column yesterday:
I doubt that europe-related questions will determine the outcome of Scotland’s own referendum. Nevertheless, they contribute to the “mood music” playing in the background of the debate. And that explains why Scottish nationalists have reason to be pleased with Cameron’s euro-predicament. The impression that Britain is lurching towards a euro-exit bolsters the idea that it is Westminster, not Scotland, that now lies outwith the mainstream. “Little Englander” is a pejorative, but powerful, label of abuse.
England’s difficulty is Scotland’s opportunity. That is the theory and it carries some weight.