Scottish referendum results: Thank you, thank you, thank you to the No voters – the Union is saved

But it’s Alex Salmond and the Yes campaign who have emerged with more credit

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It is a day of relief: a huge political storm blowing in the north has abated, and though we will be seeing effects for many more months, it is not the cataclysm it might have been. Spanish politicians can worry a little bit less about Catalan separatism; the Belgians do not now fear an early break up of their country. The early movements in the markets, as they opened in East Asia, are an indication of what short term economic impact of a Scottish breakaway would have been. The pound, which had been falling in value, is now on an upward path. Shares in Scottish companies are rising in value. Consider what they would have been doing if the Scots had voted Yes.

But economics is the lesser issue. Something that the Yes campaign never seemed to appreciate is the emotional wrench that so many of us would have undergone if we had woken up this morning to news that the United Kingdom had ceased to exist. Many of us have Scottish ancestors, we have Scottish friends, we have been there, we think of Scotland as part of the mother country. It would have been grim to be told that it had been ripped away, that Scotland was a foreign country.

A personal thank you is due, therefore, to the 55 or so per cent whose votes have held us together.

That said, it was the Scottish Nationalists and their supporters who emerge from this campaign with more credit. The reports of barracking and intimidation by Yes supporters were only a small if ugly part of what was an exemplary exercise in democratic politics. Alex Salmond and his side put a bold proposition before the electorate and campaigned for it with imagination and panache. We now know the answer to the worrying problem that fewer and fewer people turn out to vote in normal elections, and the young appear to be turning their backs on politics altogether. Scotland has just achieved the highest voter turn out any of us can remember: higher even than in the general election of 1951, when war had made the right to vote seemed such a precious asset. The Scots have shown that when people are asked a real question, the answer to which will really impact on their lives, by political leaders who believe what they are saying and are placing their reputations on the line, they will give an answer.

Though Alex Salmond and others who put their hearts into the Yes campaign may be feeling overwhelmed by disappointment this morning, they should take some comfort from knowing that they set Scotland buzzing. Meanwhile, the unlikely hero of the Better Together campaign is Gordon Brown, who ceased to be the buttoned down, obsessed introvert who was do dominant in Westminster politics for 13 years. He sounded reborn, a reversion to the radical he was in the 1980s.

 

The other side emerges with less credit. In their desperation to keep the union together, David Cameron and the Westminster establishment have made promises to the Scots that will have to be kept, causing serious political tension in the south. Expect the campaign for an English Parliament to come back to life. The coming week will be a very difficult one for Ed Miliband, as Labour assembles for its annual conference in Manchester, and delegates will look at their leader and wonder why he cannot talk with the same unloosed passion that Gordon Brown displayed in the final days of the referendum campaign, and generate the kind of excitement in the streets that the Yes campaign achieved. The answer is that normal politics are not like that, but it is not an easy answer for Miliband to give without looking like the warm up act who for some reason is on stage after the real performance is over. The week that follows, when the Conservatives assemble in Birmingham, could be even more difficult for David Cameron, who had already accumulated more enemies than he needs in his own party before he came so close to being the Prime Minister who allowed the United Kingdom to be ripped apart. The task to which he ought to be giving his full attention now is how to ensure that the 45 per cent who were on the losing side in the referendum are made to feel that they are still part of the family, but it is likely that he is going to be distracted by the trouble brewing in his own ranks.

The voting is over. The fall out from this extraordinary event continues.

Comments