Analysis: David has to chart his own course through the maze
David Cameron knows that he cannot behave like Margaret Thatcher in relation to Scotland, so a lot of this is about symbolism and trying to get the message across to Scottish voters that he is listening to them.
The Prime Minister also knows that he cannot just be seen to say no all the time and that he has to make the anti-independence campaign more positive.
Perhaps by backing tax-raising powers for the Scottish Government and ending the UK’s block grant, Mr Cameron thinks he will be able to offer a positive alternative to independence.
Mr Cameron realises that the campaign has to be Scottish-led and that the main opposition to independence has to be Scottish, as well.
What we saw in Mr Cameron’s speech this week was the Prime Minister trying to come across as sensitive and sympathetic to what he will see as a Scottish way of thinking.
By taking this approach on looking at more powers for the Scottish Parliament, he is going out of his way not to lecture to Scottish voters about independence.
An issue for him is that the farther down the path of devolution he goes, there will be those who ask what the limits of devolution are.
At the moment, Mr Cameron’s position on greater powers is deliberately vague, but at some point he will have to say how far he would go in terms of devolving more powers.
Winston Churchill once said that he did not want to be the prime minister who presided over the loss of India. Similarly, Mr Cameron will not want to be the Prime Minister who presides over Scotland leaving the UK.
He knows the history of the Tories in Scotland since 1979 and how unpopular the party has been for so long. He knows that he is walking a tightrope, in terms of how he behaves during the referendum campaign.
While Mr Cameron does not have a clear picture of what powers could be considered for Holyrood, he’ll have to make this clearer over the next 18 months or so.
• Trevor Salmon is professor of politics at the University of Aberdeen
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