Scotland could get additional powers if the Scottish people reject independence in a referendum, Prime Minister David Cameron has said.
In his first speech in Scotland on the issue of Scottish independence, Cameron raised the prospect of further devolution after the referendum, but insisted that a second option for more powers should not appear on the referendum ballot paper.
Claiming that the Calman Commission proposals included in the Scotland Bill represented “an incredible opportunity for Scots”, Cameron said: “That doesn’t have to be the end of the road.
“When the referendum on independence is over, I am open to looking at how the devolved settlement can be improved further. And yes, that means considering what further powers could be devolved.
“But that must be a question for after the referendum, when Scotland has made its choice about the fundamental question of independence.”
Speaking ahead of a meeting with First Minister Alex Salmond, Cameron used emotive arguments to defend the Union, saying: “I’m a Unionist head, heart and soul,” and adding that “something very special is in danger – the ties which bind us in the country we call home.”
The Prime Minister continued: “The United Kingdom isn’t just some sort of deal, to be reduced to the lowest common denominator.
“It’s a precious thing. It’s about our history, our values, our shared identity and our joint place in the world.
“I am not just proud of the Union because it is useful. I’m proud because it shapes and strengthens us all.”
Having already drawn attention to Scotland’s rich intellectual and cultural history, Cameron highlighted a number of Scottish achievements that he said had taken place within the framework of the Union.
“Our United Kingdom; founded on the strengths of our constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, it’s also the birthplace of the NHS, the BBC and Christian Aid.
“We have shared achievements that more than match those of any other country in the world.
“From Waterloo to the Second World War our servicemen and women have fought and won together.
“The liberation of Europe was a battle fought to the skirl of the pipes as Lord Lovat’s Highlanders were among the first ashore on D-Day in the battle to defeat Hitler.
“Your heroes are our heroes. Men like Robert Dunsire who twice in one day crawled out of the trenches facing a hail of bullets to rescue injured men at the Battle of Loos.
“And Lance Corporal Liam Tasker – the dog handler who helped to save so many lives in Afghanistan before tragically being shot…
“The Union has never been about shackling different nations: it’s a free partnership, a joint effort, often driven by Scottish ideas and Scottish leadership.
“From the industrial and commercial leadership of James Watt and Robert Owen centuries ago to Sir Bill Gammell and Ian Wood today.
“And in Westminster the cause of progress has depended on the voices of politicians from Scotland – whether its been the liberalism of Henry Campbell-Bannerman and Joe Grimond, the progressive conservatism of Iain Macleod and George Younger, or the generous and humane radicalism of Donald Dewar and John Smith.
“Together we have turned a group of off-shore European islands into one of the most successful countries in the world.”
The Prime Minister conceded that Scotland could “make a go of being on its own” and said that the SNP “should be able to determine the business of the Scottish Parliament and the agenda of the Scottish Government.”
Cameron made reference to debates over Scotland’s fiscal sovereignty in the event of independence, under the SNP’s plan to retain sterling as the country’s currency. “Certainly today Scotland has a currency which takes into account the needs of the Scottish economy as well as the rest of the United Kingdom when setting interest rates,” he said.
“And it can borrow on rates that are amongst the lowest in Europe. An independent Scotland would have to negotiate in future for things it now gets as of right.”
The Prime Minister also referenced the UK’s UN Security Council seat and its position in NATO, saying that these gave Scotland more clout on the world stage and made Scots safer. Cameron also suggested that the investigation following the Glasgow Airport bombing was conducted with resources that only the UK, and not Scotland alone, could muster.