Leaders: Parties must keep cool heads over polls

When Scotland’s future is on a knife-edge and Westminster politics is facing radical alteration, calls for calm may struggle to be heard. But, whatever the referendum result, calm there must be if reason is to prevail and panic not to take over.
The English and Welsh want Scotland to remain in the unionThe English and Welsh want Scotland to remain in the union
The English and Welsh want Scotland to remain in the union

And already there are signs of incipient panic at Westminster and uncertainty in the financial markets in the wake of a YouGov poll showing that support for independence is for the first time in the lead, with just ten days to go to the referendum vote.

At Westminster, the unionist parties are scrambling to put together a package of more powers for Holyrood and have to do so over the next few days. As The Scotsman said here on Saturday, the pledge of “more powers” early last month was so vague, both in content and in legislative timing, as to lack credibility.

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Weeks later, and with just days left in which to act, former Labour leader Gordon Brown indicated he would call for an early debate at Westminster on more powers for the Scottish Parliament. From the Conservatives, chancellor George Osborne has now promised a “plan of action” to beef up devolution. However, Mr Osborne’s proposal is, as yet, so flaccidly lacking in detail as to lack conviction compared with the excitement generated by the independence campaign.

Earnestly intentioned though these efforts may be, they will struggle to avoid being seen as panic, thus adding to the impetus of the very campaign they were designed to derail.

And even assuming that Westminster agrees to an early Commons debate, this would be just the start of a legislative process that requires both a set of workable proposals and broad agreement from MPs. Many of them will represent economically struggling areas in the rest of the UK, such as the north-east of England, west Midlands and south-west, where there will be calls for similar consideration for more tax powers.

Such legislation would certainly require firm and commanding leadership. But as the full consequences of a potential Yes vote sink in, this may be under serious doubt at Westminster, and from both sides of an already fractious House.

No less volatile will be developments in financial markets as the potential risks and rewards of a Yes result are priced in. Capital flight may be a real risk, with debilitating consequences for Scotland’s critically important financial services sector. Against this backcloth, calm must be a priority. Party leaders at Westminster need to agree reasoned and convincing proposals and a timetable for early consideration.

As for capital flight, savers and investors need to bear in mind that this is one opinion poll, not the final result, and that a panic stampede for the exits will serve no useful purpose, whatever the referendum result. There will be 18 months, at least, of lengthy and complex negotiations, during which responses can be considered in a more thoughtful and informed manner.

A referendum that has disorder as its climax will serve no-one.

The genders’ agenda

No greater myth has endured through the ages than that of shared male and female pleasures. Explore the proposition in any detail and multiple differences, major and minor, are clearly evident. The trick of long-lasting relationships is to play to these differences …and on no account to dent them.

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In the lounge, he likes watching Bruce Willis action movies and Match of the Day. She likes romcoms and Strictly Come Dancing.

In the bedroom, he dreams of Dolly Parton on one side and Kylie Minogue on the other. She likes fresh sheets, hugs and a good book.

In the dining room, he likes steak and chips, a vindaloo curry and “proper” food. She likes vegetable quiche and green salad.

In the kitchen, he likes stacking the dishwasher from the front and never, ever emptying. She likes constantly rearranging, stacking from the front and always emptying.

In the garden, he likes football netting, a sit-on lawnmower and full-on manure. She likes sweet peas, fragrant roses and a swing seat with shade cover.

In town, he likes meeting with pals in a pub and sharing beer. She likes a new haircut, coffee and carrot cake, and bagging a bargain.

In the cinema, he likes films with a vengeance theme – hardwired into the male brain. She likes the DVD of The Bridges of Madison County, played over and over again.

At work with the computer, he likes yelling down the phone for IT help on every malfunction. She likes storing the smallest mistakes in long-term memory for later retrieval.

Shared male and female pleasures? You have to be joking.