One of the things you realise with an unfortunate flash when the likes of David Cameron makes a speech to a Scottish audience is how poor is the stodge that is served up by day to day Scottish politicians.
Now that's not to be "anti-Scottish". I have previously conceded that Eck is a politician of the first rank but, to be honest, he stands out in domestic Scottish politics like Henrik Larsson once stood out in domestic Scottish football. Unlike Henrik however, you never wonder why Eck is content to display his talents to such a small audience. Political Parties don't have transfer windows, at least at their higher levels.
But just like the glory years in Europe, when the visit of Real Madrid or AC Milan might have forced even the most diehard Old Firm Fan to acknowledge that their were (at least) opponents in town worthy of their best efforts, Cameron's visit today was a major occasion and his speech, while not quite Barcelona (an accolade surely reserved for Obama alone) was certainly up there in the Manchester United or Bayern Munich class.
And he didn't just bring with him the name or the reputation, he also produced the performance on the park. Although he did give away one stupid late goal.
Cameron's speech was about as good a defence of the Union as could be produced by a Tory Prime Minister in current circumstance. It was self-deprecating when required, non-hectoring throughout, but unapologetic at the same time. It did not put, up front, warnings of doom and disaster but rather in its few notes of caution, planted sufficient seeds of doubt for others to nurture, in time, into abundant growth.
Far from his reference to Scottish antecedents being the cringe-fest it can often be from any "foreign" dignitary, rather, by placing it in the context of a multi-culturalism that can't stop at a land border, he begged significant questions of the underlying mentality not of Scottish nationalism but of any nationalism. The suggestion that such attachments as essential to your politics is an idea which is not quite "modern". (Dare one say it, it would be welcome if he could make such a speech with "Scotland" and "The United Kingdom", substituted by "The United Kingdom" and "The European Union".)
Now obviously, there were bits that I spluttered at. Had I been in the hall I would have been difficult to restrain when he referred to "generous welfare for the poorest" in light of the current Welfare Reform Bill, for example. But he is, in the end a Tory and it is good that he is looking forward. It is simply absurd to dismiss all the good the United Kingdom has done in the past, above all the common struggle to defeat Nazism, as "history" while insisting that the Tories previous sins alone "must never be forgotten".
Above all however this was not a patronising speech. Clearly somebody had done much more than a quick Wikipedia job on the number of historical and cultural references it contained but it also contained a real attempt to grapple with the "why" of a continued Union in precisely the postive terms some have demanded.
That however brings me to the silly late goal given away.
Devolution is a process, not an event, as Ron Davies famously said. But it is a process that needs set out in terms beyond vague aspiration. That's why it took us so long to achieve devolution in the first place. It is not enough for the Prime Minister to say:
It is worse still for him to follow it with.
These three sentences could so much better have been expressed:
"Now obviously, if Scotland votes for separation, then Devolution will become irrelevant. All that will be left is to manage that separation as amicably as possible.
However, if, as I hope, separation is rejected, that will not mean an end to Devolution. That process will go on, in terms mutually negotiated across our continued United Kingdom.
In particular, it must be worth looking again at how Scotland might be responsible for directly raising more of the money spent in Scotland and, indeed, whether Scotland might also have direct control over more of that expenditure as well"
That then becomes a promise in specific terms and not, as it has been portrayed, a mere temporary concession to get through the Referendum.
I suppose, when you are 3-0 up and playing additional time, there might be some excuse for taking your eye off the ball. That is, however, foolish when you are only playing the first leg.