Devolution White Paper: The ladies who eat scones would like a bit more say

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The Independent Online
The television weather forecast is typical, says Jane McLeod. "They look carefully at the south-east, then East Anglia and the Midlands. But see when they get to Scotland? Scotland is just a wave of the hand."

With a regal wave she demonstrates the manner in which the Met Office's finest contemptuously dismiss the Caledonian climate.

"That is Westminster's opinion of Scotland - its just a wave of the hand," adds Mrs McLeod, indignantly.

Home rule cannot come soon enough if nationalist politics has reached this far into the Scottish psyche. The Scottish capital has not had a parliament for 290 years. But it has its own political class already in place if the legislature comes along - the ladies who eat scones, a living, permed, national treasure.

Jane McLeod, for instance, sups in Sherry's of Morningside - scone heaven. Constitutional change is a long way from setting the heather on fire, she says, but it is sometimes talked about at the bowling club. "I think a Scottish parliament would be more responsive to Scottish needs - if the MPs get among the people and really find out what the people want."

Peggy Simpson, also in Sherry's, is a native of Twickenham who finds anti-English resentment has had no impact on her in 24 years spent living north of the border.

She is a convert to the home rule cause. "It would be nice to have a bit more say up here," she says. "We're like the cow's tail at the moment."

The real seat of scone-eating power in Edinburgh is Jenners department store on Princes Street. An opinion survey there finds Donald Dewar still with work to do in selling his plans.

Margaret Ketchin is strongly devo-sceptic. "I don't really feel that Scotland can do it on its own. Maybe they can have a little more say in their affairs, but I don't agree with devolution at all."

Politicians have their priorities wrong, she argues. How can they be planning a new parliament building when council cuts have meant that fewer bin bags are distributed to Edinburgh households? "I think taxes would go up with this parliament - and everything would go up," she adds, ominously.

Marjorie Nicholas and Maureen Johnston fear that a new parliament would be divisive. "In England, they think from what they read that everybody in Scotland wants this," says Maureen. "But I have a wide circle of friends who don't."

Marjorie adds: "It's too small a country. Economically we wouldn't be better off. What is there up here that's not attached to America, England or Japan?"