The Prime Minister, David Cameron, was said today (19th February) now to realise that he cannot busk the Scottish independence referendum with vague promises of more powers to a devolved Scotland- if it first chooses to stay in the UK. The failure to understand that the status quo will not do, even as an interim option, demonstrates an abnormally narrow information base and a lack of strategic intelligence. We have said that if the UK was seriously determined to maintain a uion, it could have preempted the matter at any time since the SNP came to power in Scotland in 2007 – not by messing around with Calman Commissions and Scotland Bills but by calling a constitutional conference of the four home nations. This would have gone against the British preference for reacting rather than for being proactive – born of the conviction that if you do nothing problems often just go away. But seizing the initiative to create change, to admit that the old arrangement isn’t fit for post colonial self-confidence and, post-Internet, a far more informed and expressive electorate would, if genuine, have been exciting. This would have created a counter static crackle to the buzz coming off the independence debate, whether or not people eventually vote for it. But it’s a long way too late for such a large initiative now – one that would have brought the home nations together in the strength of a collective reinvention of an old relationship. Elvis has left the building. All the Prime Minister can do now that he has belatedly realised he really has a fight on his hands, is some sort of a make-do-and-mend fudge that is itself intrinsically British. Think of the way we ‘reformed’ the House of Lords. We have long said that if the union is seen as valuable then it has to be seen as worth fighting for. The notion of independence brings frissons of excitement and of terror in equal measure – and that thrill is electrifying the country. Exercising choice – informed choice – is a more complex and interesting business than saying either yay or nay to a single proposition. But where is the choice? And does the current Government have the imagination and the inspiration to make it an exciting choice? The body language over the past week has been very interesting – in the meetings first between Alex Salmond, the First Minister and Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary and then between the First Minister and the Prime Minister, David Cameron. Michael Moore was clearly relaxed, interested, engaged – appreciative of the First Minister’s manoeuvering capacity. Cameron was defensive, stiff, conscious mainly of trying to appear authoritative and instead seeming uncomfortable and unreal. Moore has been becoming an interesting politician, easy in his role and with a mind of his own – as when he said in an interview that he was not a unionist but a federalist. Naturally the infant spinners in Downing Street got busy and the Scottish Secretary had to ease the sheets on that tack – but from then on, everyone knew where he was. It would be interesting to know what Moore would do to open up a federal alternative to the present paternalist union. We are unlikely to find out.