Hugo Rifkind

Scotland’s fate is more important than David Cameron’s

Why can’t my Westminster colleagues see that?

17 May 2014

9:00 AM

17 May 2014

9:00 AM

‘It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.’ So wrote P.G. Wodehouse, and he wasn’t just talking about nationalists. And right now, that thunderous cloud is me.

What I would like, you see, is for English pundits to stop connecting with the Scottish independence debate merely in terms of what it means for David Cameron. It’s an interesting question the first time, and not long ago my colleague Matthew Parris crafted a must-read column out of the idea in the Times. Otherwise smart and sensible people keep wanting to bang on about nothing else, though, and it makes me want to chew rocks. ‘Will Cameron have to go if he loses Scotland?’ they say, which is the cue for other people to say ‘Yes!’ or ‘No!’ or ‘Who cares?’ but in the bitter manner, this last one, of people who do in fact care enormously.

Stop it. Who cares? They consider the end of a 300-year-old union, and the only thing they can get a grip on — their only emotional handhold — is whether one co-alition prime minister would have to leave his job a year early? Really? This is the best they can do? Five point three million people heading off into the unknown; the birth of a new nation, calamitous or proud; who they will be, what they will think, what they will want; the voluntary departure of the United Kingdom’s largest minority; the rejection of Britishness itself; debates over EU membership; debates over Nato membership; a land border on the English mainland with a competitor nation; the first in a wave, perhaps, of many European secessions; a subsequent rise in English nationalism (which has never yet managed not to be ugly as hell); a looming fight over oil and wind and banks and money and the Army, and their stuff, and where the hell we who are left would keep our bloody ginormous submarines. All this and much, much more is available for us to fret about.

But no. Instead, they consider the departure of the birthplace of Hume and Smith, and of Britain’s best Bond and last year’s Wimbledon winner, the country that gave us television and telephone and steam train and Harry Potter and oh God, don’t make me write another list — and what do they think? I’ll tell you what they think. They think, ‘But does it mean Boris Johnson will have a better crack at No. 10?’

As annoying, and frankly similar, is the seemingly universal conclusion that yes, Cameron would have to go. Why? ‘Because if he lost Scotland…’ Lost? Lost? Scotland is not a prize to be won or lost. It is not some dominion, held tenuously by Britain proper. It is Britain proper. And David Cameron is not some modern-day Edward Longshanks, seeking to subdue the troublesome north.

He is a British unionist, as am I, and I dare say if Scotland opts to go it alone he’ll be at least as glum as I will be. But this is not some by-election or opinion poll that reflects well or poorly on his governance. It is the considered decision of a people about what sort of people they want to be, and as such there is no wrong answer. Certainly there is an unwise one, and in my view a ‘yes’ vote would be just that, leaving Scotland a far poorer and more parochial place than it is today. But it would be an unwise choice freely and democratically made.

So why should it be a personal blow to David Cameron? Why should he be seen as George III, losing America? Hell, you might just as well regard him as the PM who nobly and with restraint presided over one of the most amiable disintegrations of a nation there has ever been. Only not in Westminster they don’t. Because in Westminster, everything is about Westminster. Which is the whole damn problem. I mean, Christ, don’t they see?

I know that Scots can be chippy, and I know that I, myself, am rarely more chippy than when discussing Scotland. But the fat-tongued, rubber-footed, cack-handed, tin-eared uselessness of British political discourse on Scottish independence is beginning to give me the fear. Perhaps it stems from mere ignorance, and if it was Wales mooting independence, or Northern Ireland, or Cornwall or Norfolk, then no doubt I’d have started off much the same. But they’ve had ample time to learn tact by now. I genuinely don’t know what is wrong with them all. It’s horrifying. This is my Scotsman’s grievance, and it only grows. Nearly everything these damn people do only makes it all worse.

Buzzy neighbourhood


On a lighter note, we’ve got bumblebees in the roof. How cute is that? The council says we’re not allowed to do anything about it and nor do we need to, because they cause no damage and almost certainly won’t sting anybody, not least because the roof isn’t a place where we spend an awful lot of time.

You can see them flying in and out, though, from the little bedroom window. Apparently a bumblebee nest only has about 30 bees in it, which is particularly adorable and makes me fancy that if I watch them for long enough, I’ll eventually learn their names. Best of all, from round the corner in the bathroom, if you put your ear to the wall, you can hear them buzz. They usually sound comically furious, like Donald Duck, and don’t seem to go to bed before midnight. I’m told they’ll all leave in the autumn, and go off to live somewhere else. I’ll miss them.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Hugo Rifkind is a writer for the Times.

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Show comments
  • Jambo25

    That’ll be the lovely Nazi collaborator; P G Wodehouse then?

    • Kitty MLB

      Utter nonsense. What happened at that time tells us more about the British
      establishment then it does about P G Wodehouse ( Biographies from Donaldson and another chap explain the circumstances of those broadcasts)
      He was a giant of English literature and I am sure the establishment ghouls saw this naïve and harmless broadcast as a way to do him down.
      There have been so many inferior beings over the years who have crawled
      from beneath the woodwork to vent their spite.
      Those souls are so shrivelled as to render them incapable of appreciating
      Wodehouse’s gift as a writer and they should be pitied more then censured-
      as someone once said.
      You only need to read his books to know what Wodehouse thought of
      bullies, and fascists. You were a teacher sir, you should know better or maybe you don’t.

      • Jambo25

        Wodehouse strikes me as one of those writers that a lot of people say they like because they think they should. A rather less boring version of Virginia Woolf. However, I will repeat. He was an unfunny comic writer who happened to be a decent English stylist. As for his antics early in the war. Well, it was always claimed he was merely an innocent abroad (literally) but he would have to have been stupid beyond help not to know the nature of the Nazi regime by the time he broadcast. Other people were severely punished for what he did. He got of lightly.

        • Kitty MLB

          Wodehouse’s words,
          off the page like bubbles. More a poet then a plotter. Some draw parallels with another favourite author of mine Evelyn
          Waugh yet I say he’s more T S Eliot with a sense of humour.
          So many independent thoughts nested in lush
          and delightful portrayals of human nature, this whole rich sentence structure is disappearing from written English and
          such a shame.
          Most of my age and gender, do not appreciate Wodehouse
          and Waugh but I do. And you cannot force someone to like
          an author. I should like Charles Dickens but his suffocating
          Victorian miasmic gloom do nothing for me.
          And yes Wodehouse was very naïve indeed but innocent of
          accusations of such treasonous acts.

          • Jambo25

            Sorry Kitty, its a matter of taste. I find Waugh quite a rewarding read but I’m afraid Wodehouse leaves me a bit cold and I still maintain that he was very lucky not to be jailed for his broadcasting activity.

          • vieuxceps2

            Finding Wodehouse funny is not a matter of taste but of appreciation of the English language.You Jambo are a teacher it seems? Heaven send that you do not teach English.

          • Randy McDonald

            Yes, it is a matter of taste.

        • terence patrick hewett

          Very few writers have managed to describe the effects of a hangover: Wodehouse’s makes you weep in pain.

    • terence patrick hewett

      Roderick Spode: what of Comrade Butt? too close to home? Or perhaps you like sardines too much.

      • Jambo25

        I just like grown men in Black Shorts (Actually, I don’t; honestly.). In any case I found that the Peter Simple column in the Telegraph was much better at sending up the more idiot lefties. Mrs Dutt-Pauker is immortal. To be fair elements of that came into Beachcomber and I suppose that some credit should be given to Wodehouse for his early involvement with that.

        • terence patrick hewett

          Vote for Foulenough – And Duty-Free Lard

          The Tiddlehampton and South Mince by-election has been further complicated by the extraordinary news that Captain de Courcy Foulenough, D.T., has decided to stand as an Independent Progressive Liberal; that being the only interest not represented up to this moment. The constituency has always been considered a safe seat for the first comer, partly because hardly any one of the 26,484 voters ever troubles to vote, and partly because it is difficult to get anybody to stand for such a place. But recent international affairs have ended this
          apathy, and there are heaps of candidates. They include Mrs Wickstram (Independent Progressive Communist), Mr Edward Spackford (National Independent), two Siamese Twins, Mr Bargo and Mr Raego Rishfether (Progressive Nationalist), Mr Billy Fagan Thius, a clown (Conservative), Lady Thelma Snatch (National Labour), Miss Boubou Flaring (National Liberal), and several hitherto unidentified candidates.

          Captain Foulenough staggered his audience, disgusted what is left of his Committee, and roused his opponents to fury last night by reading out messages of support which he claimed to have received from nine Cabinet Ministers, Mr Clark Gable, Mr Noël Coward, Mr Anthony Eden, Mr Joe Louis, Bishop Mrs Riquette, Tubby Garstang, Mamie Dugold, Harry Armitage, Babs Thornycroft, Trixie, Vi, Polly, Ethel, Madge, Bobo, Curly, Mabel, Dot, Irma, ‘Coppernob’ Halsey, Flo, Nan, Gert, Myra and Olive.

          Miss Boubou Flaring appears to have ceased almost entirely from being a rival candidate. A telegram from the National Liberal Club asked, “What are you doing?” Her reply – or perhaps it was the Captain’s reply – raised a storm. It was: “Nothing of which my mother would not approve a kiss here a kiss there a whispered word in the lanes were you guys never young.”

        • terence patrick hewett

          I think it right to point out that Justice Cocklecarrot himself J B Morton of “Beachcomber” fame in the Daily Express did not write in a vacuum, their were other contemporary writers such as: Joel Mervis who penned “The Passing Show” in the Johannesburg Sunday Times for 50 years. There was the immortal Brian O’Nolan who penned the “Crushkeen Lawn” in the Irish Times (aka Brian Ó Nuallain aka Flann O’Brien aka Myles na gCopaleen aka Myles na Gopaleen aka Brother Barnabas aka George Knowall). And of course the immortal Michael Wharton of “Peter Simple ” fame.

          • Jambo25

            Wharton was a relatively unsung genius

          • terence patrick hewett

            He was indeed: I always think that they write the shortest of short stories which are again in my subjective opinion for what it is worth the most difficult of literary skills. The only people who have managed it (again in my taste) were M R James, H H Munro and Herman Charles Bosman.

          • Jambo25

            We’ve not always seen eye to eye but we do seem to have somewhat similar reading habits. I think short stories and essays when well done can be things of beauty. They, unfortunately, don’t appear to be all that much in vogue nowadays.

  • Bill Cruickshank

    It’s been obvious for some time that there is real fear in the unionist camp. Mr. Rifkind’s article just adds to the pile of evidence that the No camp know the game’s a bogey! However, give him his due, he at least recognises that these are historic times. Many in the No camp are treating the referendum as they would an election and that will be their downfall. They are simply failing to understand that the independence genie is out of the devolution bottle and he will not be returning.

    • Shinsei1967

      And many on the Yes camp seem to treat the possible dissolution of a successful 300 year union as merely a vote on whether they like George Osborne or not.

      • Theuniondivvie

        Just as the No camp (in a massive misreading of the Scottish psyche) try to make this a vote on whether the electorate like Salmond or not.

      • Bill Cruickshank

        The shallowness of your reply indicates you have little or no idea what the movement to re-establish Scottish self determination is about. The YES campaign is about returning the governance of Scotland to the people of Scotland. It is a cause far greater than any individual.

        • Michele Keighley

          But he has a point: Salmond has made repeated attacks on the Conservatives – “a vote for the union is a vote for the Tories” so that the question is more about how badly do you want to get rid of a political party than the great and uplifting vision you would like us to believe in.

          • Bill Cruickshank

            The Tories are toxic in Scotland they have 1 MP and 15 MSP’s, Salmond has every right to attack them. They impose policies on Scotland like the Bedroom Tax without having a mandate from the people. Which highlights a major plank of the YES campaign i.e. the democratic deficit. As Jim Sillars has already said “Salmond is mortal, Scotland is immortal”. Tens of thousands of YES activists are not members of the SNP, many thousands of them do not even vote SNP. Many preferring to vote for the Greens the SSP and even Labour.
            You mention a “great and uplifting vision”. I take it that is a reference to the YES campaign? Many Yes campaigners do have a vision. They envisage a democratic, socially just and nuclear free Scotland. A Scotland governed by the people who live and work here. A Scotland returning to the normality of determining its’ own future. “great and uplifting”? Possibly?Normal? Most certainly!

          • manonthebus

            You clearly do not understand Parliamentary Democracy. I doubt that you will understand it any better with Alex Salmond at the head of an ‘independent’ Scotland. We constantly hear this nonsense about not voting for the Conservatives. That is totally irrelevant and you will find out just why when you are on your own. As for ‘nuclear-free’ Scotland, that’s merely 4th form politics. When Scotland is independent, a lot of people will have to grow up very quickly.

          • Bill Cruickshank

            What is the point of your contribution. It is nothing more than an insulting rant. Surely we can have a discussion without resorting to insults and name calling?

          • Richard Ferguson

            Those “toxic Tories” as you call them pretty much match the nationalists in every general election for numbers of votes cast.

          • Bill Cruickshank

            Firstly you misquote me. Secondly I repeat with only 15 MSP’s and 1 MP it is obvious that the vast majority of Scots do not vote Tory and therefore the Tories are toxic in Scotland.

          • Richard Ferguson

            I’ve misquoted you? I don’t want to get into one of those kill-you-off-by-boring-you-to-death-with-angels-dancing-on-pinheads debates which characterise these forums but well, you do say, “the Tories are toxic” above. Anyhow, I await – far from eagerly, but I’ll allow you to have the last word on the matter – my inevitable death by a thousand points of order.

            No doubt you can construct the straw man of the relevance of Westminster elections versus Holyrood. However, my point stands: the SNP is as “toxic” as the Tories in electoral terms.

          • John McGowan

            Bill Cruickshank’s reply is, I think, instructive about the terms in which many who belong to the ‘Yes’ group see the debate. In fact it rather confirms the contention from Shinsei1967 about one of the driving forces behind the Yes campaign being a simplistic scapegoating of the Union/The English/The Tories. It gets a bit disconnected from both the realities as then stand (are the effects of union really that toxic) and from the potential benefits of independence (is it really going to be that good ? An why? Just because it more local?). The debate ends up being held in a framework more reminiscent of UKIP than anything else. Over egg the problem and simplify the solution. (Yes I know all politicians do it but this is a particularly marked example).

          • Richard Ferguson

            A decade hence PhDs will be written on the impact of social media and non-traditional op-ed on opinion forming. The Referendum will provide a good case study. Ask anyone in England how many votes a Conservative politician gets in relation to the nationalists at a general election in Scotland. The answers I’ve had range from 1 to 4, ranging as high as 1 to 7.

            That they are broadly similar (ie, 18-20% of the popular vote apiece) indicates the extent to which a few hundred folk online give the impression of a mass movement.

            There’s a few conclusions that can probably be drawn from that:

            (1) Who needs editorial support from the mainstream press when the re-shaping of the media allows you to dictate the terms of the debate?

            (2) The abuse that follows thick and fast on any pro-union sentiment now extends to all non-nationalist parties. The Tories – a “dead”, “toxic” party in Scotland – still take 400,000+ votes in general elections. And yet their presence is almost non-existent. Why? Well, when you take an excess of abuse eventually you withdraw from the debate and limit your political views to an “x” in a ballot box once every few years. For the Referendum, the same now extends across the political spectrum ie, Labour and Lib Dem folk see the ugly side of these debates and simply no longer engage. But in September they will likely turn up at polling stations in number and vote no.

            (3) There’s likely to be a significant number of people who wake up on 19 September 2014 and feel that their world has caved in.

            As a debate it sucks: an embarrassing Caledonian whine matched by its equally hideous middle England counterpart. For a nation where oil is a crucial issue, I’d love a Nationalist to give me even a bullet point version about the implications of the shale gas revolution, the implications of the developing Iraq-Iran relationship, the possibility of US oil exports being permitted, an overview of the Chinese banking system and how that might play out over the next two years. (That said, I’d love a Unionist to give me some vision of Britain a generation from now…)

            Eh no…..don’t want to do that. Too complicated…..

            As you put it John they need to “simplify the solution”.

          • Bill Cruickshank

            “However, my point stands: the SNP is as “toxic” as the Tories in electoral terms.” 7 years of SNP Government in Scotland proves you wrong.

          • Richard Ferguson

            “No doubt you can construct the straw man of the relevance of Westminster elections versus Holyrood”.

            Attention to detail: crucial stuff in important matters.

          • Bill Cruickshank

            Westminster will soon be of no relevance to Holyrood.

      • fluffnik

        I’m far from young, and I’ve only seen maladministration on Westminster’s part.

        The Union doesn’t look like a success from here, it won’t be missed.

  • Celtic_First

    I don’t see why Hugo Rifkind thinks ‘yes’ will leave Scotland more parochial; I think taking our own steps in the big world will make us less parochial. In any case, it’s a bit rich as a criticism given that, as he asserts, “In Westminster, everything is about Westminster.”

    • HenBroon

      There is no more parochial navel gazing place in the British Isles than London, as Hugos article proves. That is why the Yes vote is surging as the suppressed ComRes poll commisioned by Westminster has shown. A poll we paid for at the cost of £47,000.

      The latest bout of hysteria and recycled propaganda is predictable and subject to the law of diminishing returns. There is no positive case to be made for this undemocratic union, if there was it would have surfaced by now. For 307 years this union has been a wonderfull success for London, with it’s UK Parliament dominated by England.

      Scotland is for the first time ever, being asked if we want to be in this one sided union. The answer will be a resounding no. In 1707 our population was 20% of that of the UK. Now it is barely 9%. Devastating evidence of a failed union. Only by lies and propaganda and manipulation has it lasted this long.

      Scotland has ambitions to join the international community as an equal independent country. We are a maritime country with a long and ancient history of trade with Europe and beyond. That is until our merchant fleet was assimilated by London and all trade was banned. Cue screeching on Darien.

      Scotland wasn’t bankrupt in 1707. But even if it was, so what? Norway was a basket case in 1707, Finland was a poverty stricken remote forgotten corner of Sweden, and Switzerland was a collection of remote mountain valleys with an economy based on cheese and yodelling. The state of the Scottish economy over 300 years ago isn’t relevant to our economic potential in the 21st century. Bringing up Darien just goes to show that the anti-independence argument is stuck in the 18th century.

      Even if this Unionist claim were true, are we supposed to base our decision on the future of our country because of a good turn done to us over 300 years ago? We’ve repaid that debt many times over. But the truth is that Scotland was not bankrupt in 1707, we did not need England to bail us out. They didn’t bail us out, Westminster just bribed some lords, the ‘parcel o rogues’ Burns wrote about.

      Scotland in 1707 was doing quite well for itself. According to the historian Michael Lynch, the Scottish economy was growing at 2.5% annually – a rather more impressive figure than we’ve managed these past few years under Westminster. Scotland, like other countries in Western Europe at the time, was beginning to develop a middle class and an urban working class. The towns and burghs of Scotland were cash rich, and were beginning to agitate for greater political power. This went down as well with aristos of Scotland and England as a Craig Whyte and Neil Lennon karaoke double act would go down at Gers fans night out.

      The Darien colony was largely bankrolled by Lowland lords. However the idea that Scotland might embark on some colonialist adventurism off its own bat was anathema to Westminster, which believed it had a monopoly on imperialist ambitions. England sided with Spain and blocked Scottish access to all English colonies, as a result the Darien scheme was doomed even before it even got started.

      Failure of Darien left the Lowland Lords in financial strife, and they were threatening to default on the bills they owed to their mainly English creditors. With war looming between England and France, Westminster was determined to secure its northern border. The infamous ‘English gold’ was sent north. The money paid by the English Parliament was in the form of bribes to private individuals to vote for Union, it was not a payment to bail out the Scottish national exchequer.

      • CraigStrachan

        “That is why the Yes vote is surging”

        I’m reminded of Spitting Image, David Steel and “the surge, the surge”.

    • Hugo Rifkind

      Ah, but your point rests upon a conflation between “Westminster” and “Britain”. Which is just as parochial when you do it as it is when they do.

      • Jambo25

        Unfortunately its Westminster and a few surrounding areas where political, economic, media and formalised cultural power mainly lie in this wonderful Union of ours. Moreover, despite promises to the contrary both to the Scots and the increasingly restive non-London areas of England there appears to be little, if any, chance that any of that power will be meaningfully devolved to Scotland or the English regions.

    • Moderator

      Hugo is an overweight expat Scot. He barely has any ties to Scotland and
      sees the place like only an expat anglophile Scot would.

  • Och it’s a wee shame.

  • Raw England

    We English want rid of all politicans AND Scotland.

    Hugo, you’re fighting a losing battle in what you’re trying to do. In fact, you’re actually standing in the way of progress.

    From your other articles and comments, its clear that you, like all people in the parasite city of London, do not understand native Britian and its people, at all.

    Multiculturalism, ‘Liberalism’, ALL immigration and the EU has failed, utterly. The people DESPISE what’s been done to their country in the last 50 years. The financial cost of these things alone has driven our country to bankruptcy and total misery and suffering.

    The Social Contract that held us together as a country has been broken – no, shattered.

    You must now let events take their natural course. Otherwise, you’re standing in the way of progress, and you’re obstructing the will of the long-suffering, oppressed native people of this land.

    • ChuckieStane

      Who exactly is not going to be exterminated in your new England? I seems it will be a shorter list than those who will be spared.

      • Raw England


        • ChuckieStane

          Well you seem to “want rid” of an ever growing list: anyone non-white, muslims, polticians, Scots….

          • Cymrugel

            A poisonous poster this lad.

    • Damon

      “We English want rid of all politicans AND Scotland.”
      Stop presuming to speak for other people.
      Kind regards,
      An English Unionist

  • What surprises me more than Westminster’s obsession with Cameron’s potential departure is why everybody seems to assume the general election will take place as planned in May 2015. I would have thought a unity government and a postponement of the election would be potential consequences, but everybody in the Westminster bubble assumes nothing whatsoever will change (except for the departure of the Scottish MPs). Now, as a new Scot I don’t really care that much what happens if the rUK after we vote Yes, but I do find it curious. Surely the departure of one of the founding members of the union is not a mere annoyance to be brushed aside?

  • Andrew Constantine

    The real issue is not that the British elites have lost Scotland, but they have lost all three of the home nations, and they lost England before they lost the other two.

    As for Mr Rifkind’s comment about English nationalism, those of us who assert our English identity know they will often have to ensure insult, and possibly worst. It generally requires an Englishman to have a very thick skin to assert even peacefully his English personal identity.

    I wonder if Mr Rifkind castigates Tibetan nationalism? Or does he criticise Mandela’s posthumous reputation for being an African nationalist?

    So what’s this writer’s hang-up about those English who love their nation? It couldn’t just be sheer prejudice, could it?

    • Salmondnet

      Yes. Mr Rifkind is clearly a disciple of Jack Straw, sharing his bigoted view of the English. It is of course a very long time since English (as distinct from British) nationalism has been at all assertive. When it was, it was no uglier than any other contemporary nationalism, arguably less so, though rather more successful than most.
      I have some sympathy with the main thrust of the article. The fate of the Union is more important than Cameron’s political career, but Mr Rifkind’s knee jerk prejudice rather reinforces my view that it has run its course and that England would be better off out.

    • Raw England

      He essentially stated, in a little discussion the other week, that he doesn’t believe White people deserve to be the majority in White nations.

      He has absolutely no problem with the fact White nations are set to become black, Muslim and other foreigner-majority.

      Also, he views White people with normal, healthy political and social values as far Right and racist.

      • Moderator

        He is of internationalist Jewish extraction…

        • Raw England


  • Jim Fraser

    Hugo, they neither know about Scotland, nor particularly care. In your heart of hearts, are you really surprised?

    • Cymrugel

      No he’s not.
      Its just that the irritation is finally getting to him.

  • Raw England

    Also, Hugo, I saw you on the BBC paper review.

    I hate how you’re a likeable wa*ker.

    • Cymrugel

      Meanwhile you are a dislikeable one and an anti-Semite and racist to boot

  • Realpolitik/ fruitcake/ racist

    The greatest beneficiary of Scottish succession will be the Tories. The conservative and unionist party which is; self-evidently, committed to 
the continuation of the Union. BUT which would, by supporting the union’s rapture gain a massive political advantage. “Call me Dave” has a choice respect the heritage of his party, or be a radical PM with a 
ruthless grasp of realpolitik. What is it now, 1 Tory MP and 43 Labour MPs?

  • James Morrison

    Finally, a unionist who gets it. Well done.

    Scotland is not (and should not be) some dependency or appendage of Westminster, thought of only in terms of its contribution to the Labour “cause” and its lack of Tory representatives.
    If the union is to endure, it has to be redrawn on a federal basis. Asymmetric devolution is making the problem worse, as it has exacerbated the Scottish sense of difference and created some marginal annoyance amongst the English.

    • Jeanne Tomlin

      All very well but there is neither will nor desire in Westminster to do work out a federal solution. There was a time I would have agreed. They lost that chance long ago.

      • Richard Ferguson

        Agreed. They could save it but it would require such a leap of political imagination and leadership from people who don’t seem to possess it.

      • Richard Ferguson

        Agreed. They could save it but it would require such a leap of political imagination and leadership from people who don’t seem to possess it.

  • Cymrugel

    Thank you for an honest and thoughtful piece Hugo – though I fear it won’t go down well in these pages. Dare I say that the welly wearing w******s of Westminster are starting to bring out your inner Nat?

    Don’t you see that their attitude is the whole point?

    If Scotland were being listened to, treated as if it mattered and given a reasonable amount of autonomy – as should be the case throughout the UK – the issue of nationalism would not even have arisen, but the London government is quiet simply not capable of having the required vision and perception.

    As far as they are concerned little that goes on outside London is of any importance and as far as Scotland is concerned – well you might as well be talking about Alaska.
    A ludicrous outlook on an island of modest size and yet it is so.
    Scotland is never going to be well governed in accordance with the wishes of its people under the current arrangement. Its just not going to happen. They really genuinely do not see the need down south. It’s as if we are a far away and troublesome province reacting with ingratitude to their underserved largesse.
    In all seriousness the Yes campaign victory will be the healthiest outcome for all concerned.
    As a half Scouser with strong connections in the North of England, particularly the Peak District, I am keen to see that part of the country get back on its feet too and that is unlikely to happen without major constitutional change.
    Scottish independence may be just the laxative England needs.

  • DougDaniel

    What you’re basically describing, Hugo, is the fact that the London political and media circus elite is now completely out-of-touch with Scotland. Here’s the thing: if they don’t have the wherewithal to grasp the magnitude of what is happening in September, does it not rather suggest that they can’t be trusted to understand the everyday ins and outs of Scotland’s problems and challenges either?

    Many a Yes voter has come from just such a place. That belief in the union – unchallenged up to now because independence was some unrealistic dream of us beardy-weirdy nationalists – suddenly has a wee pinprick of a hole punctured into it. You’ll start to notice more and more things that are wrong, and before you know it, you’re wondering why you ever thought Scotland should vote Yes.

    (Well, maybe not so much for you since you’re still going to be stuck in London…)

    You should stop focussing on what could go wrong if Scotland votes for independence, and concentrate instead on what will go wrong if we don’t. Because that’s the reality: independence may offer uncertainty of the future, but the only certainty Westminster offers is certain doom. If you’re stuck in a burning building, only an idiot stays to burn to death rather than jumping out the window and hoping for a soft landing.

    • Cath Ferguson

      So true, Doug. That “Oh my God they really don’t get Scotland” does seem like it should be a lightbulb moment.

    • CraigStrachan

      “You’ll start to notice more and more things that are wrong, and before you know it you’re wondering why you ever thought Scotland should vote Yes”

      Is that you seen the light, then, Doug? Welcome to the merry world of Naw.

  • PI3GUB

    You answered your own question. “Cack-handed, tin-eared uselessness of British political discourse on Scottish independence” with more than a smattering of arrogance. Blindness and deafness to a peoples real needs begats revolution.

  • Jeanne Tomlin

    “leaving Scotland a far poorer and more parochial place” What classic Scottish cringe in an otherwise reasonably good article.

  • Terry Field

    THe headline is nonsense.
    I am not Scottish, and I am therefore totally indifferent about the future of Scottieland.
    If they go, fine; if they stay’ oh well, their miserable socialist MPs will still infect Westminter.
    I am FAR more concerned to see a real Conservative government returned ij=n Westminster.
    I have no concern at all if the Scotts do not like this; they can pee off and have their own little Shortbread Soviet.
    And I wold like to see Mr Cameron running a Conservative government; God knows after the garbage he has had to put up with, he should get the chance to do so.
    Socialism is a dead letter and England would never vote for it. Let the failed peripheral cultures vote for the mediocre and the failed.
    That should be their problem, not the problem of England.

    • victor67

      But your hero’s in the Tory party are c–p–g themselves about the Scots kicking out their £100 billion nuke toys and keeping their oil revenues. Its not just their massive ego’s that will be bruised.

      • Terry Field

        They want the Union to continue. I have no such preference. I would like to see a confident independent Scotland. As for your post, I presume you have not looked at the map – most of the hydrocarbons are not in the gift of Scotland; and the Islands will go for independence the day Salmond becomes Emperor, and they will take their oil and gas with them.

        • Rachel Dempsey

          That is one of the reasons why we are going to Piss Off as you say. You want a Conservative Government where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. In our fairer society we want the complete opposite. So farewell !!!!!

          • Terry Field

            No Rachel. free enterprise and unconstrained individual action generates broad-based prosperity; government can and does trust-bust to guard against monopoly, and redistribution through agreed taxation is univerally accepted. All else that is the top down socialist state is and should be rejected. If you want jowley old salmond and Sturgeon (something very fishy in Scottieland) telling you how to live your lives, Scottieland will continue to depopulate,and the refugees will become illegal immigrants in a vibrant and alive England.

          • Rachel Dempsey

            I agree with you totally about redistribution of wealth through agreed taxation. However, I would like that taxation which is raised in Scotland o be used in Scotland to benefit the Scottish People. The Westminster Governments have been trying to tell us how to live our lives for years. Well I have got news for you Terry nobody tells me how to live my life. Why do you always have to revert back to your childish behaviour e.g Scottieland and jowley old Salmond. You obviously do not have a grasp of what is going on here. Read up on some research, the Scottish People are not voting for any particular person or any particular party. We are voting for Independence. I may also point out that we have had many people from the North and Midwest of England saying that they wish that they could join us. We want a Parliament based in Scotland, with a Government in Scotland who have been voted in by the Scottish people to meet the needs of the Scottish people. Is that so hard for you to grasp? I have many family and friends in all areas of the UK, England, Ireland and Wales. I totally respect their right to vote for whoever they want as they do for me. I am not-anti English I am anti-Westminster.

  • victor67

    Its paradoxical for Cameron that if the Tories fortunes improve in England in the next few months and it looks like they may get a majority next year. This is a gift to the yes campaigners as the Scots could not stomach another 5 years of the Posh Millionaires lording over them with their slash and burn attacks on the poor, sick and mentally ill.
    Cameron and his ilk have to leave the no campaign to the Unionist left. The idea that independence is just about Salmond and the SNP is vacuous in Scotland. Many on the left in Scotland and England are disillusioned with Labour but in Scotland the have a credible alternative. A real Labour party in an Independent Scotland.
    Interesting times!!

  • Lady Magdalene

    The idea that English nationalism is “ugly as hell” when we have had the ugly spectacle of Scottish nationalism stuffed down our throats for two decades is risible.
    The Scots are the nastiest nationalists in the UK.. They have a huge chip on their shoulder and like to blame the English for the Scottish economy’s failing … instead of blaming the people who deserve it … themselves and their obsession with unreconstructed 1960s style socialists.

    • Maureen Luby

      Oh dear, you do have a bit of a chip on your shoulder, don’t you? Scots don’t blame ‘the English’ for anything. Our gripe is with Westminster.

      • Rachel Dempsey

        Totally agree with you Maureen. Lady Magdalene would seem to be in the group of people who have no idea of the policies we want from our Government. We want a fairer just society, to retain our NHS, to care for the sick and elderly, to provide free education to our children to rid ourselves of that Elephant on our back, TRIDENT and other nuclear weapons which are based in Scotland etc etc. Read up and gain some knowledge about what Scottish Independence voters are voting for!!!!!!!

  • Cath Ferguson

    Now you know how independence supporters feel having the re-birth of our ancient nation boiled down to “It’s all about Alex Salmond…can Alex Salmond pull off a victory…what will happen to Alex Salmond if HE loses…Scotland can’t possibly be independent because Alex Salmond is a bit fat…etc, etc, etc and on and on and on and on.

    There has been an independence movement in Scotland since the union came into being, and we have never been allowed a democratic vote on it until now, when we’ve voted in a party offering us one. He just happens to lead that party. The movement is so much bigger than that, and independence is massively bigger than one man, one party or even one moment.

    Cameron is Salmond’s equivalent on the NO side, so why shouldn’t he come in for the same amount of personal abuse and blame if we’re going to bring it down to all being about who happens to be in charge?

  • rod robertson

    I have just come back from a meeting with Jim Sillars ,David Hayman and Tommy Sheridan the speakers.
    Like countless meetings being held every night throughout Scotland it was packed out.
    I would guess around 400 people there of all ages and persuasions .
    Scotland is now the most politicised place on these islands, the YES Campaign is a magnificent example of citizens taking control of their own futures.
    I am convinced of a YES Vote now more than ever.
    People certainly listening to the speakers ,however in the Q&A showing how sophisticated the ordinary voters of Scotland have become,how particpative they are in YES,how completely involved and informed,
    Then we have No, all suits talking to suits in TV and Radio studios
    .Suits talking down to the Scots from these studios, not very well informed suits from the media and other parts of Westminster bubble trying to lie and distort to the most knowledgeable of the entire British electorate.
    These suits from Westminster making the biggest mistake to Scots ,THREATENING them.
    If nothing else it shows how London just does not get Scotland.
    Try anything you like but threatening and bullying are the two biggest mistakes you could make.
    The next mistake you made is putting people in charge of your campaign that are so full of hatred towards the SNP they cannot act ,speak or behave rationally.
    Alex Salmond dancing rings round them and the Scots laugh at the threats and the bluster.
    Only right wing Tory types worry about currency, Scotland has a majority of working class people .they do not give a toss about currency ,or big business or any of the other scare stories,they don’t believe them and they don’t scare.
    The Better together is going to go down in history as the most incompetent ,disorganised ,badly led campaign ever,and not just in UK terms worst ever anywhere.

  • Hugo Rifkind is very much mistaken. There is a wrong answer in Scotland’s independence referendum. The wrong answer is No. That is because a No vote is being presented to us on a false prospectus. It is being pressed upon us with lies and scare stories. It is being sold to us with false promises and deception. How can a “choice” made under such circumstances be anything other than wrong?

    • flippit

      ‘Lies and scare stories’, ‘false promises and deception’ utter bunkum from you as usual.

    • Cymrugel

      Well truth be told they haven’t got much of an argument have they?

      Witness Cameron today. To be fair the lad didn’t do too badly, came across quite well in fact, but what is the substance of his remarks? There is a lot of shared history and it’ll be a really big change. So what?

      Now that its finally come down to it I think a lot of Scots are suddenly realising that the emperor has been walking around stark naked for a long while now.

      Just appealing to auld Lang Syne isn’t going to be enough, so they are trying to make people feart with a lot of guff about how the lights will go out and the bogeyman will get us.

      That isn’t enough either so they are coming on strong about how they will basically do their best to crush Scotland, but that wont work too well either,as the things they talk about belong as much to Scotland as to the rest of the UK.

      Personally I think this has been the No camps biggest mistake. A position that all things really belong to the UK and that Scotland loses them upon independence shows a mindset where really it all belongs to England and we are being given access by their gift. To use the divorce metaphor its a bit like one partner deciding that the car, house, bank account and custody of the kids will all belong to them by right.

      Oh no they won’t.

      It might still go the No camps way as its a big leap of faith, but the way they keep slapping these metaphorical custard pies into their own face gives me hope.

  • CraigStrachan

    “I know that Scots can be chippy”

    How very DARE you!

  • uberwest

    No, however worthless Cameron is, Scotland’s fate is less important.

  • flippit

    I don’t think many people are saying that Cameron should resign or that bothered about Cameron in this, maybe I missed it all? Benedict Brogan in the DT and Matthew Parris yes, but anyone else? Perhaps its just the London elite but is it massive? Don’t think so.
    Sounds to me like you’re getting very nervy and as you say ‘chippy’. It’s all getting a bit embarrassing on “both sides of the debate” as they say.

  • Frank

    Will the Rifkinds be moving back to Scotland if Scotland votes for independence?

  • NBeale

    The idea that Cameron will resign if Scotland votes for independence is ridiculous.

    However I think it is clear that if Scotland does vote for independence they will get a much worse deal from a Conservative government than from a Labour one. There would be every incentive for Cameron to play as hardball as possible.

    I really hope it doesn’t happen, but if they are so stupid as to vote for independence they deserve all the economic disasters they will get.

    • Maureen Luby

      Thank you for your kind wishes. Cameron can play as ‘hardball’ as he likes but it comes down to what cards he’s holding, which isn’t many.

    • nancoise

      But as Labour would be losing perhaps as many as forty Labour seats, and possibly thereby losing a majority, why would they be kind?

  • nancoise

    I’m sure someone will straighten me out, but here’s my understanding of life following independence.

    1. Scotland will keep the pound and have no say whatsoever in monetary policy or Scotland will join the euro and have little say in monetary policy or Scotland will have its own currency and will control it itself for a while, but will have to give it up when it joins the EU.
    2. Scotland will have traded control by Westminster for control by Brussels.
    3. Scotland will spend hundreds of millions of whatever currency they decide on on lawyers’ fees trying to prove North Sea oil is theirs and will eventually end up with less than they expected to have because that’s the way it goes when the lawyers get involved.
    4. Scotland’s 52 MPs will return from Westminster as they will no longer have jobs there. Some of Scotland’s former politicians will take lucrative jobs on boards of directors and will never come home, though what influence they will have left to peddle is a mystery. Scotland will save money, and some Holyrood politicians will be fighting for their political lives against the influx of savvy homecomers.
    5. Scottish voters will find that their new political masters have no more taste for fiscal responsibility than their old ones. After all, are not some of these the same who oversaw the cost of building Holyrood rise from an initial estimate of £40m to £109m to eventually more than £410m? Is Alex Salmond not the very man who recently featured in the papers for charging thousands of pounds to taxpayers for five star accommodation while on a junket? And refused to respond to FoI requests for details of his expenses?
    6. Scotland will find that, if it wishes to remain part of NATO, it may have to accept the presence of nuclear deterrents on its soil.
    7. If Scotland does join the EU, Scottish universities will be flooded with English and Welsh students who, as citizens of an EU member state, will have their tuition paid by Scottish taxpayers.
    8. Scotland will have a chance of winning Eurovision.

    • nancoise

      9. Scotland will find itself the target of an independence campaign by the Orkneys and/or Shetlands. ‘Edinburgh doesn’t understand our needs.’

  • john

    The English only see Scottish independence as a slight to them. They have no sense of what it might mean to a working class Scot who resents the arrogance of the Tories and the London elite. So Cameron is much more interesting to the Brit media than is the real issue which affects a strange alien group called Scotmen.