Now that the result is known, some thoughts about the Scottish independence referendum:
1. I consider myself a friend of Scotland. I go there at least one a year, to walk and backpack in its beautiful landscape, and as a nation it feels to me like a better place than England. Going there is not like “going home”, because it isn’t my home, but it has something of that quality about it. This probably shows how easily Scotland is romanticised, but its also how I feel about the place.
2. I was, and still am, broadly in favour of Independence for Scotland. Which puts me in the company of just over one and a half million Scots – a place I’m happy to be. Independence would likely have been a tough ride, economically, for a decade or so. But the referendum was a decision for centuries, not the near future, and I think it would have turned out well in the end.
3. But we are where we are, and politics continues because it never goes away. Around half of the adult population of Scotland, and four percent of the population of the UK, felt and still feel that the UK is no longer their home. Something has to change. A significant proportion of those voting no did so because the Prime Minister promised further constitutional change. Without it, it seems fairly clear to me, the result would have been yes. Constitutional change has to happen, and it is going to have to be a bit more than-who-gets-to-vote-for-what in the London parliament. If serious change doesn’t happen, the UK government loses its legitimacy and authority over Scotland. Totally.
4. There will be a UK parliamentary election in on 7th May 2015. The legislative programme is no doubt already full of measures to charm the voters, and Tory MPs are pushing back against the Prime Minister’s promises. Combine this with the fact that many Scottish Labour supporters will have voted yes and may be feeling rather let down by Labour’s opposition to independence, and we could be seeing a lot more SNP MPs in the Westminster parliament next year. Making Alex Salmond a potential kingmaker in the (likely) event that no party has an overall majority.
5. Anecdotal evidence suggests that younger people made up a large part of of the Yes vote. For some, particularly sixteen and seventeen year-olds, it will have been the first time that they voted. Many have been politicised to some degree by the intense and emotional nature of the campaign. I don’t know how they are feeling this morning, but I suspect that a large number feel let-down not only by politicians but also the older generation – who they may feel voted No out of fear. Whether they turn to anger, political activism, or apathy is too early to say. But the Westminster political system has become optimised for a largely apathetic population, and it will not welcome change.