Cue panic from the Westminster establishment, trips north by UK party leaders to plead with the Scots to stay and to make promises of expanded devolution if they kept the union, while a previously unpopular former PM found his voice to lead the fight back to save the UK. Rather that a nation divided, the legacy of the referendum campaign is a nation awakened.
Scottish national identity and consciousness is more alive than in hundreds of years. The polling suggests that Scotland briefly flirted with the idea of independence in the last weeks of the campaign, led by its heart and excited by the prospect of striking out on its own. But in the last few days the head won out and concerns over economics caused enough voters to pull back to ensure a solid No vote. The establishment reaction to the first poll showing a Yes result a fortnight ago was panicked and desperate but it did the job.
In general the No side ran a negative campaign focussed on economic fearmongering. While it may have worked in the end it will have left a bad taste in Scotland, even among No voters, and it has probably weakened the union in the long run — for if pro-union campaigners have nothing positive to say about the union, what does that say about it?
The Yes side, on the other hand, ran a positive broad-based campaign that engaged many sections of society, including many people who had never been involved in politics before. The long campaign suited them as it let them reassure people about the major institutional changes independence would bring, and to soften the fears around the economic dangers that the No side raised.
One underappreciated feature of the Yes campaign is how many in it claimed they were not nationalists, and certainly not SNP supporters. There was also a lot of talk of creating a civic, independent Scotland not an ethnically defined one. Where these types of activists end up will be fascinating to watch. Incidentally, this distinction helps explain why a lot of the rhetoric from the three UK party leaders fell on deaf ears — they came north to fight back against nationalism, but that was only half the story of the Yes side.
Up until very recently, there was also no Scottish demos — politics was focused on Westminster and UK-wide political issues dominated debate.
Since devolution in that has been gradually changing and the referendum has completed that process in dramatic fashion — there is now a self-consciously Scottish demos for whom Scottish political issues dominate and whose attention is focused on the Scottish parliament at Holyrood, with Westminster politics now secondary. This change is firmly established and Scotland will never revert back to the old order.
This probably favours independence happening in the long-term, though that is not inevitable, but it certainly means a complete change to Scottish political life from that of the last years, and it means the UK can not be the same as it has been to date. So if the old UK is dead, what will it evolve into? Nevertheless as of today it looks likely that the timescale set out before polling will be largely kept to and that new powers will be negotiated and legislated for by March next year.
But if these promises are not delivered on it will cause intense resentment in Scotland, among both Yes and No voters. This will probably happen through a constitutional convention of some sort, either a stand alone one or a parliamentary one. But, again, the parties disagree on how to proceed so this might be slow.
However as Labour has much more support than the Tories in Scotland and Wales excluding MPs from those countries from certain votes will hurt them much more.
Episode Berwick is two miles from the border and is the only English town with a soccer team, the Rangers, that plays in the Scottish league, a legacy of the days when a poor railway network made the rest of England difficult to reach. This is the England that offers 43, Scots access to their hospitals every year and I can think of no Scotsman or woman and no Englishman or woman who would ever stop an ambulance from crossing the border to help. But the true measure of her quality is the skill with which she is playing a fundamentally weak hand. Sturgeon will also be under the spotlight in a parliamentary inquiry looking into the whole sorry mess of a Scottish Government investigation that was found to be "unlawful" and "tainted with apparent bias" against Alex Salmond.
Other reforms, like that of the House of Lords are also on the cards. It could be abolished or else become an elected chamber representing the regions in a more federated UK. This agenda is here to stay and will have to feature as part of the final order that emerges over the next few years.
Rising UKIP support is another sign of growing English nationalism and the energy of the campaign in Scotland has infected citizens in both England and Wales who are now looking at their political futures anew as a consequence. The real revelation of the last stages of the campaign was a re-energised Gordon Brown, completely at odds with the dour and unpopular PM people remember.
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With passion and conviction he did more for the pro-union cause in the last week than anyone else. He delivered the positive message that the No side had so lacked to that point and he reached out and pulled back enough Labour voters to ensure a comfortable No win, stopping the slide to the Yes side at a crucial moment. Although this passionate Gordon Brown was a surprise it was not completely out of character.
There has been some talk since the result of Brown entering the Scottish parliament and maybe even trying to become first minister. One interesting feature of his key speech is that he effectively made nationalism sound like a dirty word while expressing pride in his nation and praised the merits and successes of a supra-national political system that has served his people well and had achieved much.
However if in the UK referendum on an EU exit in a few years time he made a case along similar lines it would be received totally differently — the newspapers and commentators who were praising him last week would condemn him for a similar defence of the EU. Earlier on the day of the result he had fulfilled his role as national leader in receiving and respecting the democratic result, so his later resignation was unexpected — but it was dignified, and there is a neat symmetry to ending his term in tandem with the referendum he did so much to make happen.
Ironically, despite the apparent defeat, he may have achieved what he actually wanted. The outgoing first minister took the SNP from being a fringe party to its current position as the largest party in the country, running the devolved Scottish government, and to the cusp of independence.
He is the dominant figure in modern Scottish politics and in stature there are few if any UK politicians that compare. Labour has hewn to a left-wing message.
The Conservatives have focused their campaign on telegenic leader Ruth Davidson, pledging to provide strong support for staying in the U. In doing that they are going to the Left and in doing that they are losing the middle ground. A Conservative second place on Thursday remains unlikely, however. Almost two years on, independence remains a dream for many here. The local SNP branch now has around 1, members. While the pro-U. The question of independence has dominated the latter stages of the campaign. The SNP manifesto, for the first time, does not include an explicit commitment to hold a referendum on leaving the U.
Another independence referendum is highly unlikely in the course of the next Scottish parliament, said commentator Iain Macwhirter. They would almost certainly lose and it would kill independence stone dead. If the rest of the U. This article has been corrected to update the number of years the SNP has been in power. Peter Geoghegan is a writer and journalist based in Glasgow. Log in to access content and manage your profile.
If you do not have a login you can register here. Witch Hunt! The future belongs to patriots. Working toward a safer, cross-border digital gambling environment. But in promoting its manifesto for Scottish independence, a Panglossian emphasis on the best-case scenario has at times strained its credibility.
On oil revenues, entering a currency union, achieving EU membership promptly and smoothly, securing affordable rates of interest for borrowing on the international markets and its capacity to withstand global economic currents, the case for independence has been built upon a string of ideal outcomes. Even the other party in this great divorce, the Government at Westminster, would, it is assumed, act at all times during separation negotiations in accordance with the Scottish Government's wishes.
The currency union is just one major hurdle. This approach has inevitably produced a clamour of dissent.
A formidable line-up of independent experts, including think tanks, academics, leading oil industry figures and the Governor of the Bank of England, has contested the reliability of these assumptions. Unfortunately, a tactical decision appears to have been made by Yes Scotland to portray most objections as contemptible negativity or the pessimism of the fearties. A sense of realism and healthy scepticism has been derided, especially in the latter stages of the campaign. Antonio Gramsci, the Italian philosopher and politician, famously advocated pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will.
The Yes campaign, understandably, has emphasised the latter but effectively ignored the former.
Meanwhile, Better Together has struggled to find its momentum. It has failed repeatedly to put forward a positive vision of the future. In fairness, however, the pro-UK campaign has one major disadvantage, in having to serve three political masters with three divergent blueprints for the future of Scotland.
With no agreed legislative framework to put before the Scottish people, it has found itself in the role of a corporate marketing department without a product to sell. This has had serious consequences. The erosion of Better Together's lead over the last month betrays a dire lack of cohesion, trust perhaps, among the three main pro-UK parties when it comes to handing over the extensive extra powers that Scots want.
The Liberal Democrats and even the once devo-sceptic Conservatives have demonstrated their readiness to meet voters' aspirations with far-reaching proposals on fiscal devolution but Labour, fearing the diminishing relevance of their 40 Scottish MPs, has shown greater timidity. It is critically important all three parties, and Labour in particular, show greater ambition and determination to implement a substantial expansion of Scottish Parliament powers.