Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Cameron won't play referendum games with Alex

Back from the Prime Minister's Downing Street press conference which was noteworthy for the way he slapped down his military chiefs who have been squealing about the RAF and the Navy "running hot" to maintain the Libyan bombardment.

He said, rather glibly: "sometimes I open the papers and think you do the fighting, I'll do the talking." I suspect he'll pay for that remark down the road because top brass can turn can do into can't go quite quickly for a PM.

Oh, there was a U-turn too, on prison sentencing in England and Wales today. These have become pretty regular events.

On the Scottish question, and at least one is compulsory on the day the Scotland Bill is going through parliament, Cameron was asked by Mike Settle if he would be tempted to short-circuit, the two question/2014-2015 guessing game that Alex Salmond is playing on the referendum issue.

Cameron gave a pretty full answer, emphasising that we would enable a referendum when the Scottish parliament votes for one, but also serving notice that he did not want to "play games" on independence while the First Minister prepares the ground to maximise support for separation.

He didn't quite rule out a short-circuit by calling a referendum himself (which Westminster could do anytime). But he seemed impatient for Salmond to get on with it and warned him to govern for the wellbeing of Scotland not for the circumstances that will maximise support for a independence vote.

Here's what he said in full:

“What I worry about is that the government of Scotland is going to be too much about how to bring about the right circumstances for his referendum - whether he wants two questions or four or six - rather than trying to the right thing by people in Scotland

“I genuinely believe in a respect agenda. I respect the mandate that Alex Salmond has as First Minister, the governemnt here in Westminster will work with him and talk to him about how to amend the Scotland Bill, about how we can make sure everyone can benefit from the policies of the UK government and two government work well together

What I won’t have an endless situation where this isn’t about the health and wealth and wellbeing of Scotland, and it’s just about trying to get to a referendum situation to satisfy his needs. That s not right at all.

“If the Scottish parliament votes to have a independence referendum that is a vote we have to respect that vote and we have to enable that to happen. I don’t believe in Scottish independence, I believe in the United Kingdom and I want to keep the United Kingdom together. I’m not going to play a game with Alex Salmond about the hows and whens and wherefores.

“I think he should get on delivering good government for the people of Scotland and working with the Westminster government to make sure we join in the endeavour and not play games.”

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