After three years the referendum for Scottish independence went ahead on Thursday with the majority of Scots rejecting the opportunity to split from the United Kingdom.
The lengthy hard fought battle for the Scottish independence referendum came to a head in the small hours of Friday morning as across the Pictish homeland ballots were counted up and the United Kingdom was finally seen to be preserved as the majority of Scots voted against independence and for continued union with England, Northern Ireland and Wales. This came as a bitter disappointment to the high energy “Yes” campaign and as a huge relief to the overly concerned “No” campaign.
Scotland Vetoes Split From Union
• Yes – 44.7% / No – 55.3%
• Internet betting in the UK got the odds right
• Devolution issues still lie ahead
With a turn out of over 85% the ever smooth politicians are already falling over themselves to say the “democratic process” is the real winner with the voice of Scotland having been heard and the matter settled for the foreseeable future, if not a lifetime. This is, of course, to be expected as there now needs to be a fair degree of horse trading to be done and unnecessarily irritating the opposition by either gloating or moaning (depending which side you’re on) would be a Singapore casino cruise to nowhere.
The campaign might be over, the ballots may have been counted, and the results announced, but the knock on effects of the process itself due in no small part to the party leaders from Westminster having kept their policy positions mobile betting promises of more devolution would win them the day. Which, of course, it did, but at what cost? Increased devolution might play well north of the border but down south, where power remains, there are rumblings of discontent from the Tory backbenches.
The end result put the “No” campaign support at 55.3% which was well in excess of the percentage that the polls had indicated, leading some to question the accuracy of polling data in a modern internet connected political age. The pollsters had worried about this themselves ahead of the vote, probably because the bookies at no time followed their lead and constantly backed the “Better Together” campaign to win.
Another Win For Democracy
“As we celebrate, let us also listen,” said victorious campaign leader Alistair Darling, “More than 85% of the Scottish population has voted. People who were disengaged from politics have turned out in large numbers. While they have voted on the constitution, that was not the only or perhaps the major issue that drove them to the polls.” He continued. “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.”
“The unionist parties made vows late in the campaign to devolve more powers to Scotland.” said Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland and leader of the losing independence campaign, “Scotland will expect these to be honored in rapid course – as a reminder, we have been promised a second reading of a Scotland Bill by March 27 next year. Not just the 1.6 million Scots who voted for independence will demand that timetable is followed but all Scots who participated in this referendum will demand that timetable is followed.”
“We will ensure that those commitments are honored in full.” Promised Prime Minister David Cameron as he spoke of his “delight” at the vote’s result on Friday morning. But in an acknowledgement of the difficulties ahead continued “In Wales there are proposals to give the Welsh Government and Assembly more powers and I want Wales to be at the heart of the debate on how to make the United Kingdom work for all our nations,” he said, adding, “In Northern Ireland, we must work to ensure that the devolved institutions function effectively.”
Which is more than a tip of the hat towards the divisive West Lothian question. This is an issue raised by further devolution to Scotland of spending and taxation, where some English MPs in Westminster point out that Scots MPs in Westminster shouldn’t be able to vote on matters the sole concern of the other union nations. This is an issue that won’t go away and if the party leaders are gambling news of the referendum result will kick the can down the road for now, it won’t do for long.
The West Lothian Question
Nigel Farage, leader of the political joke that is UKIP, has been quick out of the gate not only raising the issue itself but writing, by snail mail of all things, to each Scottish MP in the Westminster parliament asking them to abstain from any vote that doesn’t relate to Scotland. This sort of grandstanding is Farage’s stock in trade, but it is often the seaweed of prediction for rural Tory reaction to any given issue. The promises made by the three parties in their referendum panic will now come back to haunt them despite their victory.
The biggest stumbling block being that the promises made by each of the three major political parties differed entirely from the promises made by each of the other major political parties. Ironing out those wrinkles could take a little longer than Scotland will be willing to wait, and should the SNP retain power there is always the chance a spurned Scottish electorate might be given another opportunity to express its desires. Alex Salmond might be saying the issue has been settled for a lifetime now but if those promises go unfulfilled who can say what tune he might sing in the future.
1,617,989 people in Scotland wanted independence but were defeated by the 2,001,926 who didn’t although the biggest losers could well be the pollsters who look a tad silly having endlessly muttered about what a close race it was, and how they couldn’t adequately predict which way it might go. Missing a more than 10% difference in opinions is a polling failure of mammoth proportions which makes you wonder how the online gambling sites in the UK managed to fairly accurately predict the outcome and set their odds accordingly.
There are difficult times ahead as the battle of independence draws to a close and the fight for satisfactory devolution just gets going. Whilst so clearly divided the media has decided to portray Scotland as a nation coming together again on Friday. The degree to which this is a wholesale misrepresentation will only be seen in time as the political soap-opera storyline changes and the winter lays this aside till the Spring, whereupon hostilities are likely to resume as calls for action grow louder and louder.