James Forsyth

The Union needs balance

The Union needs balance
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Today’s Guardian long-read on the Scottish referendum is a great piece of journalism. Both Alistair Darling and Danny Alexander argue in it that when David Cameron stepped out of Downing Street and announced his support for English votes for English laws he allowed the SNP to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, to argue that Scottish voters had been hoodwinked.

Now, to be sure, Alex Salmond make much of Cameron’s announcement. In his Spectator interview he says that it showed that Cameron thinks Scots ‘heads zipped up the back’ and that he didn’t get the enormity of what had just happened. But the idea that Cameron’s announcement alone, not the dire state of Scottish Labour or the fact that the Unionist vote is split three ways while the Nationalist one is not, is what has allowed the SNP back into the game is bizarre. Equally, there has to be a recognition of the fact that after the promises of extra powers for Scotland there had to be some attempt to answer the West Lothian Question. The Tories did need to do this for party political reasons, to stop Ukip becoming the English party, but—in the long run—a badly lopsided constitutional settlement is not in the interests of the Union. Indeed, if the next election throws up a situation where the Scottish Nationalists are left holding the balance of power, English votes for English laws might stop being of interest only to constitutional pointy heads and instead become a pressing concern for voters south of the border.