Better Together’s panicked response plays into Alex Salmond’s hands

A combination of a despised ConDem Government in Westminster and a Labour Leader who has failed to connect with the party’s Scottish grassroots points very clearly to today’s visit being a waste of time.

A combination of a despised ConDem Government in Westminster and a Labour Leader who has failed to connect with the party’s Scottish grassroots points very clearly to today’s visit being a waste of time

If Scotland votes for independence next week, today’s panicked response from the UK party leaders could prove to be the final nail in the coffin of the Union as we know it.

Following the weekend’s YouGov polling putting the Yes camp ahead for the first time, the first response from those seeking to keep Scotland within the UK family was not promising, with the chancellor, George Osborne, rushing onto the Andrew Marr programme to declare, like a startled rabbit in the headlights, that the UK parties would be announcing a firm timetable for further devolution in the event of a No vote.

By Monday, more sensible heads seemed to have prevailed, with Gordon Brown seemingly taking a grip of the situation, outlining what the plan would be and when further powers could be handed to Scotland.

In doing so, he provided the kind of passion that Better Together has so far failed to show. It was a moment that gave a glimmer of hope.

Then came yesterday. Amidst the air of crisis surrounding all of them, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband collectively decided not to attend Prime Minister’s Questions and instead to make a dash for Scotland.

What the purpose of their visit will be, who knows. But one thing is for certain – it’s unlikely to make the situation any better for those fighting for the UK.

A combination of a despised ConDem Government in Westminster and a Labour Leader who has failed to connect with the party’s Scottish grassroots points very clearly to today’s visit being a waste of time.

Alex Salmond’s declaration that he would pay for the leader’s fares if they decided to come up by bus may be amusing, but it’s amusing in as much as it is true.

Rather than grandstanding and gesture politics of the worst and most unproductive kind, Cameron and co should have stuck to the mantra that Scotland should decide Scotland’s fate and let Gordon Brown take the fight to Alex Salmond during the final straight.

In going up en-masse today, all three of the UK party leaders have stuck their neck out and put their reputations on the line. If Scotland votes Yes next week, there will undoubtedly be calls for all three to resign as a collective admission of their failure to understand and connect properly with Scotland.

All of the UK parties have underestimated the power of Alex Salmond. It was David Cameron, in the face of opposition from the SNP, who opted not to allow Devo-Max on the ballot paper out of a complacent sense that Scotland would never vote for independence. What a failure.

And it is Labour which, in bungling its election campaigns in 2007 and 2011, that provided the SNP with the stronghold they now have at Holyrood. Labour took Scotland for granted and today we see the devastating results.

As the all three leaders catch the train to what is increasingly looking and feeling like a separate country, it seems increasingly likely that this will be their final journey before Scotland votes to keep them out permanently.

Alex Salmond should be preparing to have the last laugh.

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