Andrew Wilson: ‘Posh’ Cameron welcome in Scotland

I REALISE I may occupy a minority ­position in this but I feel very uneasy when anyone, but especially a politician, tells anyone from furth of Scotland that they would be too “anything” to succeed here.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Picture: TSPL
UK Prime Minister David Cameron. Picture: TSPL

So when a particularly aggressive Labour backbencher last week told the Prime Minister he was effectively too posh for the Scottish debate, I shuddered more than a little. I don’t like that stuff and I never have. I realise, of course, that politics is a blood sport. We have grown accustomed to being foul, beastly and mean to politicians, especially the important ones. But it doesn’t make it right.

I also think it patronises, diminishes and demeans the Scottish population, culture and society. Yes, we are distinct and different and have our own ways and mores. But we are an open-hearted, forgiving and friendly bunch, on the whole. The idea that anyone from south of the Border should ever feel uneasy visiting, living or being here is an idea to be quashed, assiduously, always.

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As with any country or locale, we should be given the respect that comes with understanding our ways and our story but, of all the countries in the world, no-one anywhere should have anything to fear from entering our number.

So telling the PM he is “too posh” carries the knock-on collateral risk of setting a tone I find foul, unacceptable and wrong. As far as I am concerned you can be as posh as you like. Welcome. Always.

The Prime Minister is also, despite the painful democratic deficit involved, the Prime Minister of all of the UK including Scotland. That he has only one MP out of 59 from here on his bench highlights an obvious issuette.

For all but a tiny number of our media and political class it will seem truly absurd that we spend so much time debating about debates. Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree that the best possible debate for the referendum would be between the Prime Minister of the UK and the First Minister of Scotland.

They both signed the Edinburgh Agreement to let this referendum happen. Both want maximum power and should make their case to the electorate.

But we all know that this won’t happen. Why? Because David Cameron looks at polling numbers and listens to focus groups and believes he would be a liability to the case he wants to win.

This view is backed up by his campaign team and colleagues in the Labour and Liberal parties who believe they are winning anyway.

But being a leader, not just any leader, but the leader of the country and giving up on a tenth of your people and a third of your landmass is just wrong.

Not only that, the PM is happy to direct resource, influence and pressure to the campaign behind the scenes but thinks being transparently accountable and tested is above or beneath him.

This, I believe, is understandable in short-term modern political methods, but will be seen as a major error of leadership judgment when viewed across the span of the history of our time.

If I were the Scottish Conservative leader it would once again confirm to me the need to cut my ties altogether and create a new centre-right autonomous force. And were I a unionist I would be wondering whether anyone of influence gets the fact that winning ugly on 18 September might not be the end of the story.

Leaders, this may seem obvious, ought to lead. Big times demand big people. This is a big time. Churchill would have come north and spoken to Scotland directly about why he wanted us to stay. I suspect Boris Johnson would too.

David Cameron checks the polls and gets civil servants to publish papers on why we’d fail if we didn’t or how he’d thwart us if we did.

This may work. But what it will do is undermine more of the foundations under the edifice he purports to support. History doesn’t happen in minutes, things change over time.

Things are heating up in this campaign. Expect more anger and fury. Expect the hand of David Cameron’s influence to direct establishment figures, voices and organisations to cry increasing fear and cant. Examine the content of the argument before believing the advocate.

Also expect more warm and fuzzy love from household names to tweak the heart strings, because the No campaign is not stupid and realises the negative wall of noise can’t stand on its own.

But through all the noise remember that what matters most in all of this is what happens next. The Scottish Government have successfully framed its argument in ideas we can touch, such as childcare, rather than the abstract of constitutional theory.

Weighing up the consequences for how we live our lives and run our country is what will determine the reality of the years to come whichever way we vote.

The Yes side need to be crystal clear on their vision and, to be fair, are doing more than most expected to set it out. Now is the time for No to do the same.

• Twitter: @AndrewWilsonAJW