Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Don't overlook the power of Scotland

It was a nice soundbite from the Prime Minister in the House of Commons when he mocked Scottish Nationalists for wanting to delay a referendum on independence until 2014. They didn't want a referendum, David Cameron said, but a never-endum.

Sure it raised a few laughs among the Tory faithful but it was the sort of quip which raises even more hackles north of the border. For if there is one thing Scottish Nationalists hate more than a clever Englishman, it is an old Etonian, Tory Party clever Englishman.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond was probably rubbing his hands with delight at Mr Cameron's intervention in the debate.

He knows in his heart of hearts that Scotland would probably not vote for independence, but every jibe from Westminster will mean more support for the nationalists.

It may not be a very intellectual debate, but whipping up emotional support is the surest way of adding to the pro-independence vote.

Mr Cameron would be well advised not to engage in a bantering match with Mr Salmond and should stick to the well-reasoned arguments that a truly United Kingdom is the strongest and best political, economic and social force for these islands. If the independence for Scotland idea continues to flourish and grow then there would be serious implications for the rest of the UK. Where would the break-up stop?

It is ironic that at a time when the constitutional question in Northern Ireland seems settled - no change unless the majority of people want it - that a new threat to our position within the UK emerges from the other side of the Irish Sea.

While a majority of people here might still want to remain within the UK, would England and Wales feel the same about us if Scotland ceded?

The debate about Scottish independence might seem like a local dispute between Holyrood and Westminster, but it could put our position into the melting pot also in the longer-term.

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