Alex Massie

From the White Cliffs of Dover to the Tweed (But No Further)?

Text settings

Yes, I'd noticed this part of Cameron's speech too:

And those changes have brought us success, in local elections we have taken Plymouth, we have taken Lincoln, we took Chester, we took the council right here in Blackpool and as William reminded us in that great speech on Sunday we are back in the North of England, a force to be reckoned with in every part of our country.

Daniel Larison raises an eyebrow and asks:

Except Scotland.  Or maybe this was an intentional oversight?

My sense is that it was an unintentional slip. It's true that neither Scotland nor the Union were mentioned in Cameron's speech but that's understandable for a number of reasons.

First, and most practically, the next British general election will not be won or lost in Scotland. The conservatives hold just one of the 59 Scottish seats so Scotland is not part of their game-plan. It's not on the board.

Secondly, Gordon Brown is doing the Tories' dog-whistling for them. The more he talks about Britain and Britishness the more he reminds English voters that he's a Scot who's in grave danger of protesting too much. Cameron doesn't need to raise the West Lothian question; the Tory press will do that for him.

Thirdly (and more honourably), I suspect Cameron knows that there's relatively little he can do to spark a Tory revival north of the border. I also suspect that he's an instinctive rather than a doctrinaire Unionist who realises that a centre-right revival in Scotland must be made  - and be seen to be made - in Scotland rather than imported from England. Equally, his apparent belief in the virtues of localism requires that he devolve power and responsibility to the Scottish party, rather than imposing policy and philosophy from Central Office in London. To do otherwise would open him to charges of hypocrisy, control-freakery and anti-Scottishness.

Fourthly, Cameron's omission of Scotland is further evidence of the truth that Scotland is already  semi-detached from England. As I've written before, if the Tories really want to "save" the Union they'll have to risk "losing" it and accept that a looser, federal Union is the only kind that can hope to thrive in the future. That means ditching their knee-jerk hostility to "seperatism" and accepting that it's a legitimate - if, in their view, misguided - option that Scots are sensible enough to decide for themselves.

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.

Topics in this articleSocietyscotlandtories