There are only five months to go to the Scottish referendum and the Cabinet is becoming increasingly agitated about the state of the Unionist campaign. At Tuesday’s meeting there was a frank and realistic discussion about its problems.
The government’s concern is prompted by the fact that it has fired its biggest gun, telling the Scots there’ll be no currency union after independence, but the Nationalists are still standing. Indeed, they appear to have strengthened their position. The coalition now thinks that part of the problem is that there are not enough purely Scottish voices making the case for the Union. They fear that even Scots with Westminster seats are, to some extent, seen as outsiders in this debate.
Another worry is the state of Scottish Labour. Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish Secterary, bemoaned that it is leaderless, rudderless and soldierless and thus unable to give ‘Better Together the support the Unionist side was banking on. There is also increasing coalition frustration with the intensely tribal way in which Scottish Labour is behaving.
But a senior Labour source tells me that Better Together’s message has been ‘too Tory’, too centered on questions of fiscal credibility. Indeed, Ed MIliband is taking the entire shadow Cabinet to Scotland later this month to try and make a distinctly Labour case for the Union.
The Unionist side in Scotland needs to sort itself out—and fast. With only five months to go, it can’t afford this kind of navel gazing. At the same time, as Cameron told Tory MPs on Wednesday, the rest of the UK needs to make far clearer to the Scots that it doesn’t want them to go. If these things are not done, then the United Kingdom—with its great history and moral purpose—could be lost forever.