Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Scottish Play Rebounds on Tony: The Prime Minister Thinks a Poll on Scots Independence Will Derail Gordon's Ambitions. but the Chancellor Soon Has Other Plans in Train

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

The Scottish Play Rebounds on Tony: The Prime Minister Thinks a Poll on Scots Independence Will Derail Gordon's Ambitions. but the Chancellor Soon Has Other Plans in Train

Article excerpt

Scene 1: Tony's office. Margaret Beckett enters.

Tony: Ah, Margaret. I'm very worried about this Scottish independence business.

Beckett: Oh, it won't happen for years.

Tony: That's why I'm worried. I mean Labour's going to be wiped out on 3 May. And it'll all be my fault. Unless ... Scotland's already a foreign country. You see what I'm driving at?

Beckett: A snap referendum.

Tony: Right.

Beckett: But the people don't want an independent Scotland.

Tony: The English people do. Let's give them their say in a national poll.

Beckett: But you're going to break up the Union.

Tony: No, no--just give it a good hard shake, that's all. And the public want it, so I have no choice.

Beckett: Yeah, and since when did you listen to the public?

Tony: All the time. Usually with my hands over my ears, but on this occasion I like what they're saying. Now, I've drafted the question. [Reads from a notepad] "Is it time for England and Wales to tell the sponging Scots to sling their hook and take their boozy, whingeing, thieving ways with them?"

Beckett: Er, Tony, that's a bit--

Tony: Too impartial? OK. How about this? "Tick here if you want Jock to piss off for ever." Much snappier.

Beckett: Well, the English will love it. And the Scots'11 be so offended they'll probably agree to it, too.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Tony: Excellent. A huge majority for the Yes vote. So we'll hold the referendum next Thursday. And pass an Act of Separation with a one-line bill the following Monday. Sorted.

Beckett: Hang on. That means every Scottish MP will become a foreigner.

Tony: Right.

Beckett: Including ... Gordon!

Tony: Ooh. Dearie me. Do you think he'll be cross?

Beckett: Just a bit.

Tony: Good. I like this plan more and more. Now we'll have to build an embassy in Edinburgh. And appoint some lightweight as ambassador.

Beckett: You're not ... Are you dropping a hint?

Tony [laughs]: Oh, Margaret. Don't be silly. A lightweight? No, no, you're a complete zero.

Scene 2: Downing Street. A month later. Tony is packing his bags for a lecture tour of America. Cherie is watching TV in the lotus position. On the screen she sees Alex Salmond, newly installed as PM of independent Scotland, making an international appeal.

Salmond: Under our emergency powers we're requiring everyone born in Scotland to report to Holyrood within ten days and register with our programme for national renewal. …

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