Despite the close polling numbers in the final weeks of the campaign the end result wasn’t as close as many “Yes” votes would have liked.
John Denver might have wanted a country road to take him home to West Virginia, but this morning Scotland revealed the road it has decided to take doesn’t lead to an independent country of their own but a retaining of membership in the union between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The vote against independence has come as a blow for the “Yes” campaign who had hoped the flawed poll numbers were correct and they were on the verge of winning.
Scotland Votes “No”
• Smart strategies by Westminster seal win for status quo
• Devolution difficulties still lie ahead
• Leaders of all sides call for unity after divisive vote
They weren’t. The end result shows that they had missed out by approximately 10% of the voters and that it was no where near as close as the polls indicated in the run up to Thursday’s historic vote. Of course the final week of panicked reactions to those close polling numbers means that the Scotland of today can look forward to more devolved powers once Westminster decides just what those should be and to what extend Scotland should be allowed to run its own affairs.
Given all three major Westminster parties have different views on what the bribe promised to Scottish voters might entail it is likely to take a while to finalize even once the first draft of the legislation, due in January, has been published. The political shenanigans that will now ensue are likely to dwarf even the borderline chaos of the last week of campaigning before the vote as the parties argue over the extent and manner of devolution and some of the more bumptious MPs in parliament try to derail it.
The ballot card counting system took the totalizing into the wee small hours with a final result only hitting the media around 6am local time despite early indications of the way the country was leaning. The final results saw 1,617,989 people vote for Independence and 2,001,926 people vote against it which is far more of a decisive margin of victory than perhaps even the “Better Together” campaign expected right up to the wire.
The Democratic Process Wins Again
“[It has been] a triumph for democratic process,” losing campaign leader Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, told supporters as he conceded failure, going on to comment of the promised new devolved powers that, “Scotland will expect these to be honored in rapid course – a a reminder we have been promised a second reading of a Scotland bill by March 27th next year,” adding “Today of all days as we bring Scotland together, let us not dwell on the distance we have fallen short, let us dwell on the distance we have traveled and have confidence the movement is abroad in Scotland that will take this nation forward and we shall go forward as one nation.”
“Now the debate has been settled for a generation, or as Alex Salmond has said: ‘Perhaps for a lifetime’.” said Prime Minister David Cameron outside the door of No.10 Downing Street on Friday morning, “So their can be no disputes, no re-runs; we have heard the will of the Scottish people.” which may well turn out to be a victory of optimism over experience as there are almost definitely disputes ahead as the promises made during the campaign now need delivering despite opposition and differing approaches.
Alistair Darling, leader of the “Better Together” campaign acknowledged the massive victory telling supporters in Glasgow they had “chosen unity over division and positive change rather than needless separation” adding that the process had underlined the need for some sort of change in the relationship between the Scots and Westminster. “More than 85% of the Scottish population has voted. People who were disengaged from politics have turned out in large numbers.” He said. “While they have voted on the constitution, that was not the only or perhaps the major issue that drove them to the polls. Every political party must listen to their cry for change, which could be echoed in every part of our United Kingdom but had this opportunity to express itself in Scotland.”
Which still leaves Scotland waking up this morning, as fools queue for the new iPhone gambling they won’t actually have to buy one, a nation clearly divided with 44.7% of voters disappointed in not having gained independence, and 55.3% somewhat embarrassed they’ve won continued subservience to London. However the unity message has been spread thick across the media in the bright shining light of the result with the Queen herself touted as speaking later today to call for national consolidation despite the obvious chasm of difference that now needs papering over.
Devolution Devils In The Detail
The three main parties in Westminster all made promises of increased devolution for Scotland, making a cross party pledge on the matter, but given the three couldn’t actually match up their proposals how quickly should Scotland expect these new powers? The answer? Not just yet. Worse still is the vexed issue of the so called West Lothian Question that might yet see the entire process halted by political expediency and pragmatism leaving the Scots high and dry. Again. There might today be a chorus of ‘settled for a lifetime’ but a Scotland failed by Westminster now might return to the polls one day soon.
The crux of the matter are the number of conservative MPs and others who argue that if Scotland is handed control over its own taxation and spending, amongst other powers, then the Scottish MPs who sit in the Westminster parliament shouldn’t really be able to vote on issues that concern England alone, taxation and spending for example. This is immediately countered by those who say it’ll make Scots MPs in London “second class” members, something that would just lead to renewed calls for independence north of the border.
The political circus means all this can be kicked into the long grass for the time being, perhaps until spring next year at the earliest, and you can expect the party leaders to keep their positions mobile gambling news of the referendum result will sink in and lower expectations over the winter. Mr. Alex Salmond is unlikely to allow that to happen, of course, and there’s the spectre of UKIP, the leader of which has already been making the Tory backbench dissenters look like ultra-loyalists to the cause of devolution.
Whatever happens there’s very little chance the status quo will remain in tact, with a guarantee of change made so publicly difficult to shy away from even for British politicians, there will have to be significant adjustment of the power distribution. However the knock-on effects of the campaign for Scottish independence might be of far greater significance than the campaign itself in the long run seeing a compartmentalizing of democratic politics in the UK that is has long sought to avoid.