Alex Massie

Cameron Should Also Talk to Alex Salmond

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Whither Scotland? Well, apart from Labour regaining the two seats it lost in by-elections not a single seat changed hands north of the border. Indeed there was a swing to Labour and I suspect that Brown and Jim Murphy won votes when they warned that a vote for anyone else was a de facto vote for the Conservatives. Such is life and it's remarkable how these ancient ghosts still retain the ability to spook the populace.

So why should Cameron speak to Salmond? Well, because he should be able to get the SNP to at least abstain on a putative Tory budget. Cameron has already said that the Scottish government's grant will not be addressed this year (because the budget has already been agreed and passed) and that's a decent starting point for talks.

Just as importantly, Cameron can call Salmond's bluff: the SNP leader is already talking, foolishly, about how a new Tory ministry won't have any kind of mandate in Scotland. Well, let him have his referendum and make it a simple Yes/No vote on independence. Salmond, not being stupid, can't really want such a vote but he might find it hard to escape having it if Cameron puts it on the table.

In this respect I agree with Iain Murray, though perhaps for different reasons. He argues:

One final point. If I had my druthers, I'd offer a deal to the Scottish Nationalists for a referendum on Scottish independence. The Scots have clearly and decisively rejected unionism, so it is time for them to taste the consequences of that rejection. The public finances of the United Kingdom of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland would improve markedly and the Conservatives would have a solid majority. I can't see why this option isn't on the table.

And doing so would settle this legitimacy sillyness for good. (For that matter, a Con-Lib deal with a Liberal such as Charlie Kennedy filling the role of Secretary of State for Constitutional and Devolved Affairs or something would be no bad thing either and also spike the malcontentns guns to some degree.)

UPDATE: Of course there's an element of pies-in-the-sky about this given that Labour are already talking to the Nats and Eck has dismissed cutting any deal with Dave. Nevertheless, this simply demonstrates a failure of imagination.

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.

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