IN announcing plans yesterday to force the issue of Scottish independence David Cameron pitted himself against the man recently named by The Times as Briton of the Year and one of the most formidable politicians in Britain today -- Alex Salmond, First Minister of the Scottish Parliament and leader of the ruling Scottish Nationalist Party. The British government says that under the Scotland Act of 1998 responsibility for constitutional matters remains in London and only a British government can decide to hold a referendum on this matter. Mr Salmond says his manifesto for the most recent Scottish election which he won handsomely said that the SNP would bring forward a Referendum Bill in the second part of the next parliament and that he may choose to do so in 2014.
David Cameron, backed by Chancellor George Osborne, says uncertainty about this issue is interfering with investment in Britain as a whole and especially in Scotland and that the delay to 2014 is in order to use the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn as a rallying cry for independence.
The Scottish government says that Mr Cameron's proposal is a blatant interference in Scottish democracy. Thus far independence has only minority support in Scotland -- about 32 per cent in the most recent poll, almost ten per cent more than a year ago. A busy time for constitutional lawyers lies ahead.