As Gordon Brown must be fed up with Alex Salmond and the Scottish National party running rings round him, fomenting English dissent with the Union, I suggest the following advice to the Prime Minister:
To :Prime Minister
From :Senior Political Adviser
I understand your reasons for turning down a referendum on the EU Treaty, even though I still think it would have boosted your ratings and made you appear different to the age of spin under Blair. I have been thinking how you could at one and the same time show you are concerned about what people think, and deal with the Scottish problem created by Alex Salmond’s persistent campaigning against the Labour government from his platform in Edinburgh.
The one good thing in the opinion polls for us in Scotland is the way support for independence has fallen sharply. As Salmond is about creating the conditions for Scottish independence, his biggest failure so far is to see support for such a venture falling rather than rising, the more he does as First Minister. I suggest you take advantage of this by giving Scottish people a referendum on independence.
We could present this favourably. We are listening to the wishes of the Scottish people. We would be giving to the First Minister what he says he most wants, a vote on the Union, at a time when he least wants it. We would call his bluff.
It should be easy to secure a "Yes" vote for the Union in Scotland – it would be far more difficult in England at the moment. All the main parties apart from the SNP would line up with us, and the polls allow plenty of leeway for a poor campaign for the Union. Once we had secured it, it means the issue of Scottish independence is off the agenda for a generation, and Alex Salmond will go from hero to zero in three short weeks. It should create internal dissension within his party, and lead many of them to ask what it is all for if they have already lost the hearts and minds of the Scottish people on the main thing that matters to them. Thereafter we would be free to adjust the financial settlement between England and Scotland to some extent, blaming Salmond for any cuts that had to follow in Scottish spending. He would not get another term as First Minister, and his minority government may even break up before the end of their term.
It still leaves us the problem of England, but it would mean English nationalists could no longer look forward to the early exit of Scotland from the Union which many of them favour. My advice on that remains not to wind the English up more by pressing ahead with strengthened regional government which they hate. Indeed, why not as part of the efficiency reviews look at ways of reducing the cost and intrusiveness of regional government in England to show them you understood the meaning of the North East referendum result? At the time you thought the Blair/Prescott combination had really messed that up, so why not accept the verdict of a very Labour part of England on that issue?