If you've ever wanted to know what cognitive dissonance sounds like, look no further than the Telegraph's reporting of George Osborne's latest wizard idea of heading off Scottish independence by getting Tory MPs to campaign against it in England (yes, really!). As the article explains the reasoning behind the initiative, namely that English resentment of Scotland is making independence more rather than less likely, you can almost hear the penny drop with the writer that the Telegraph themselves have been fuelling that very resentment day after day after day, and thus undermining their own stated objective. And yet he can't quite bring himself to let go of the idea that their beloved 'subsidy junkie' propaganda is entirely justified, a belief which is obviously going to make it a touch difficult to convince the English of the "benefits" to them of Scotland remaining in the union. The effort to reconcile this hopeless contradiction is encapsulated in the following heart-rending sentences -
"Opinion polls have consistently shown that support for Scottish independence is higher in England than north of the Border, fed by anger that public spending is around £1,600 higher per head in Scotland than the UK average.
The First Minister’s decision to introduce a series of free universal benefits, including prescription charges and university tuition fees, has increased cross-Border tensions.
Although many English Tory politicians share their constituents’ frustrations over this, they remain committed to keeping the United Kingdom together."
So can the Telegraph turn the supertanker around, and stop routinely producing counter-productive headlines about "English patience with Scotland wearing thin"? Pondering their dilemma reminded me of Denis MacShane's rather amusing plea for a "different journalism" to report on the topic of prostitution in future, after being humiliatingly caught out by journalism in its current form for trotting out statistics with no basis whatever in fact. I think that the Telegraph do genuinely have an affection for Scotland and its place within the UK - but that Scotland is a different Scotland. One that knows its place, is damned grateful for what it's given, and votes Tory just like normal people do.