The Man Who Saved the Union

John Rentoul

moore 300x225 The Man Who Saved the UnionI have written about Michael Moore, Secretary of State for Scotland, in The Independent on Sunday today. He was once such an anonymous Cabinet minister that he featured in this Times photograph (right) illustrating a story about civil service job cuts.

But I think that he might come to be regarded as the most successful Liberal Democrat in the Cabinet, and the man responsible for that remarkable phenomenon, the Discomfiting of Alex Salmond.

Jim Cusick’s report that the negotiations over the division of the UK’s national debt would not begin until after a Yes vote in the referendum is here. Also in today’s newspapers there is also an interesting report of Herman van Rompuy, president of the European Council, saying that Scotland would have to re-apply for EU membership. It is 17 months old, and the Observer is wrong to describe it as “recent”, but it remains pertinent to the debate.

It is always dangerous for London-based journalists, even those of Scottish heritage, to venture into the furnace of Scottish politics, but fortunately responses I have received from Nationalists (in the comments and on Twitter) have confirmed that they are always willing to engage thoughtfully and courteously with the arguments.

I lived in Scotland as a child, but I would not presume to know enough about Scottish public opinion to predict how the referendum will go. As an expat, though, I was struck by a BBC Newsround programme at the time of Cameron’s speech in February. It interviewed Scottish school children and one of the boys said that he did not want Scotland to be independent because he did not think that it had enough soldiers to keep it safe.

Anthony Wells has collected all the opinion polling on independence and it is notable that the last time support for it outweighed opposition was a TNS System Three poll for the Herald in April 2008, when 41 per cent supported independence and 40 opposed. (A YouGov poll for The Sun conducted at exactly the same time found 34 per cent support and 51 per cent opposition.)

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  • creggancowboy

    Saor Alba.

  • Junius

    I beg to differ, John Rentoul. The most successful Liberal Democrat in the Cabinet is unquestionably Daniel Grian Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Given Mr Alexander’s firm grip on the fiscal tiller, ship of state HMS Coalition is steadily sailing into placid waters, putting far behind it the storms which beset HMS Boom’n'Bust, the overmanned, waterlogged hulk abandoned by Cap’n Broon, First Mate Darling and Purser Byrne – who had the effrontery to leave in the cabin a note apologising for the fact that the treasure chest was now bare. Although Purser Byrne still managed to salvage enough dubloons to award himself a generous end-of-voyage bonus.

    Had there been any justice, Broon and Byrne would have been forced to walk the plank, and Darling sentenced to a year in the slave galleys.

  • RolftheGanger

    The Union is not ’saved’, it is in debate, for decision in autumn 2014, when it will end.

    70% of the Scottish electorate do not trust Westminster but do trust Holyrood to manage Scottish affairs.

    Once trust is lost, the propagandist can peddle their wares all they like, they are not chiming with Scottish minds.

  • Pacificweather

    Only a year in the slave galleys! I could only agree to that if it included extra whippings fron that lady in Streatham.

  • Pacificweather

    So, it is just a myth about the Scottish education system.

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