GoldiecameronDavid Cameron has discussed in detail for the first time the approach that he would take in dealing with the SNP administration in Scotland if he becomes Prime Minister after the next election.

Writing in Scotland on Sunday, Mr Cameron pledges that whilst he will do "everything in my power to ensure that the SNP will not be able to split up the UK", he would want to be "a prime minister that would work constructively with any administration at Holyrood for the good of Scotland".   

The Tory leader sets out three ways in which he would go about this:

  • Firstly, he would back the constitutional settlement of devolution and not seek to control Tory MSPs at Holyrood (with whose leader, Annabel Goldie, he is pictured above).
  • Secondly, he would want there to be a good working relationship between him and First Minister, Alex Salmond – which has not been the case with Gordon Brown, who has not met Mr Salmond for nearly a year.
  • Thirdly, he would want there to be co-operation "at all levels" between the administrations, with the Scotland Secretary and First Minister having official monthly meetings, Cabinet ministers talking to their opposite numbers in Scotland and civil servants in Whitehall having similar dealings with their counterparts in Edinburgh.  He reveals that members of the shadow cabinet have already been meeting with members of the SNP cabinet and adds: "I want to see more of that".

He concludes:

"This commitment to true partnership between our nations
sets the Conservatives apart from the other parties in Scotland as much
as our commitment to modern, centre-right ideas. We are the only party
that can bring about the change Scotland needs."

Even if David Cameron is elected Prime Minister with a working Commons
majority at the next election, the electoral arithmetic north of the
border still means that there is likely to be little more than a
handful of Conservative MPs sent to Westminster from Scotland, which is
a potential weak point for David Cameron.

After all, the default position of the SNP administration would surely
be to claim that the Conservatives therefore do not have a mandate to
govern in Scotland.

As such, David Cameron’s article today emphasising his desire to
co-operate with Mr Salmond et al is clearly an attempt to foster
goodwill at an early stage.

But there is something else he could do which would have the potential
to shoot the SNP fox: what about promising an early referendum offering
the option of independence for Scotland or the status quo of devolution
within the UK?

As an electoral tactic this would enable the Tories to offer SNP voters
the opportunity to vote for their party’s principal stated policy for
real (and three of the top Tory target seats are SNP-held).

But more importantly, since polls show that a majority of Scots would
not back fully fledged independence, a referendum vote effectively
endorsing the current constitutional settlement would allow David
Cameron to rightly claim to be the legitimate Prime Minister across the
United Kingdom.

Jonathan Isaby

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