David Cameron urges Scots to stick with Britain

LONDON — The date for a vote hasn’t even been set. But Prime Minister David Cameron made an impassioned appeal directly to the Scottish people Thursday to keep Britain intact, imploring them to vote no in a referendum on whether Scotland should become an independent country.

“Of course Scotland could govern itself. So could England,” Cameron declared in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh. “My point is that we do it so much better together.”

In a dog-eat-dog world, he said, the Scots would be better off remaining joined to England and Wales under the shelter of collective British diplomatic, military and economic might.

“Whether in Edinburgh or London, the United Kingdom is a warm and stable home that billions elsewhere envy,” said Cameron, who described himself as a “unionist head, heart and soul.”

His speech, in the seat of Scottish political power, was the British government’s opening salvo in a campaign expected to culminate in a historic plebiscite probably sometime in 2014, when voters north of the border with England will decide whether to preserve the United Kingdom as it is or go their own way after three centuries of togetherness.

Cameron has no desire to go down in history as the prime minister who oversaw the breakup of Britain. As a sweetener to Scottish voters, he held out the possibility of granting more powers to Scotland to run its own affairs, but said that would be for later debate, after the question of statehood was settled first.

He went to Edinburgh for talks with the leader of Scotland’s semi-autonomous parliament, Alex Salmond, whose nationalist party has put the fight for independence front and center in Scottish politics. The two men, who have a prickly relationship, are negotiating the exact timing and wording of the historic referendum.

With most polls showing pro-independence sentiment hovering at about 40 percent, short of a majority, Cameron is eager for the vote to take place as soon as possible.

But Salmond, considered by some the savviest politician in Britain, wants to hold the referendum in the second half of 2014, giving him and the Scottish National Party more time to make their case.

As a backup, he is also angling to put an alternative to full independence on the ballot, one that would greatly expand Scotland’s powers without secession. He criticized Cameron’s stand that that debate should be put off till after the plebiscite.

“If the prime minister has an offer to make to the people of Scotland, then he should make it now … so that we can have a clear debate and a clear decision on the alternative futures for Scotland,” Salmond told the BBC. “This idea of saying, well, vote no and we’ll give you something later, I don’t think is going to convince anyone in Scotland.”

At the same time, he has some convincing to do himself. Many of Salmond’s compatriots remain skeptical that they would be better off on their own rather than huddled under the British umbrella — for example, whether their economy would be able to compete strongly enough or whether Scotland by itself would be able to fund its social welfare policies.

For his part, Cameron tried to strike a cajoling tone, aware that to be seen as a lecturing or condescending Englishman would only undermine his case.

He paid tribute to Scotland’s proud traditions and achievements, its role in the Enlightenment and Britain’s industrial revolution. He mentioned Walter Scott, lauded Adam Smith and even quoted a line from a verse by Robert Burns, the iconic Scottish poet.

More Scots now live in England and more English live in Scotland than ever before, he noted, saying that together, Britons could advance the modern causes of freedom and inclusivity.

“Our union isn’t some antique imposition. It is living, it is free, it is adaptable. It is admired around the world as a source of prosperity, power and security,” Cameron said. “Together we have turned a group of offshore European islands into one of the most successful countries in the world.”

Talk to us

More in Local News

Kevin Duncan puts his ballot in the ballot drop box outside of the Arlington Library on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020 in Arlington, Wash. The Arlington school District has three measures on the February ballot, including one to replace Post Middle School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
High court: State must pay for some, not all, ballot boxes

Snohomish County sued to recoup the cost of adding 21 ballot drop boxes to comply with a 2017 law.

Jesse Spitzer (Snohomish County Sheriff's Office)
Sultan man wanted in Washington, Idaho arrested in Montana

Jesse Spitzer, 30, is accused of multiple thefts and was on the run from law enforcement for a week.

‘Armed and dangerous’ carjacking suspect last seen in Edmonds

A man in a stolen truck led troopers on a chase. He crashed, assaulted another driver and took that car.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lynnwood in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Lynnwood bookkeeper gets federal prison for embezzling $298K

Judith Wright, 75, was sentenced Friday to six months for writing fraudulent checks to herself. It wasn’t the first time.

Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, left, speaks on the floor of the Senate, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., during debate on a measure that would delay implementation of a long-term care program and the payroll tax that pays for it. The Senate passed the measure, which was passed by the House last week, and Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign the measure on Friday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Delay of Washington’s long-term-care program signed into law

The bill addresses concerns about the program’s solvency and criticism about elements of the underlying law.

Anthony Boggess
Man charged with first-degree murder for killing of Marysville roommate

Anthony Boggess, 30, reportedly claimed “demons” told him to hurt people. He’s accused of killing James Thrower, 65.

Les Parks, left, talks with his daughter, Kenzi Parks, after a laser etched drum finished printing Tuesday afternoon at his home in Tulalip, Washington on January 25, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
After 1,200 positive cases, Tulalip Tribes face ‘deepest fear’

“We used to be big on family doings — not anymore.” On top of a cultural toll, the pandemic has exposed health inequities.

Stevens Pass on Dec. 30, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / Herald file)
Amid rocky ski season with 300 complaints, Stevens Pass offers deal

Vail Resorts said returning customers can get discounts for 2022-23 if they renew their passes by May 30.

A car drives by Everett Station where Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin's proposal for its ARPA funds includes funding a child care center at station. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald) 20211118
Council approves lease for Bezos Academy at Everett Station

The preschool will be tuition-free. “I just know how darned important it is,” Councilmember Liz Vogeli said.

Most Read