Initial Confidence for the City, but Unchartered Political Territory Lies Ahead
It’s as if the apocalypse was close, and then didn’t materialise – or at least that’s what the prime minister and the Yes campaign will have felt this morning. A pollster’s confident No prediction after the polls closed set the tone for much of the night’s commentary and the currency markets and the FTSE responded dutifully earlier today. A high turnout didn’t benefit the Yes campaign as much as they hoped, but Glasgow still voted for independence – it will be interesting to watch how that plays out within Scotland.
The ‘people have spoken’ mantra is being used by both sides and Alex Salmond has been graceful in defeat and in resignation. All sides need to ensure Scotland unites and moves forward now. Be under no illusion though – the feeling behind the Yes campaign is a movement that will continue to influence politics in Scotland and the UK. It’s not just a nationalist vote. It’s a protest vote against what they see as an out of touch style of politics. The 2015 general election is already being eyed up by the SNP – think about it: without the potential risk of independence, voting SNP in Westminster elections to ‘fight for Scotland’ could be an attractive message even for some No voters.
It’s a bit of a cliché but it’s hard to avoid; the real winner in all this is the civic population of Scotland. They might not know what advanced devolution settlement will finally be agreed upon but the level of political engagement, 84.5% turnout, is unprecedented. Former first minster Henry McLeish made the point this morning that it will be a real shame if this civic engagement isn’t carried forward for the better.
There are significant repercussions for the rest of the UK – especially England. UKIP and some Conservative backbenchers have this morning been bashing the Yes campaign (including the prime minister) for promising too much without yet securing results for England. Ahead of the 2015 general election, expect UKIP to tap into the anti - establishment ‘standing up for England’ vacuum (see any similarities with Yes?) and attempt to divide the Tory party core vote.
To deflect the UKIP challenge David Cameron has this morning already announced proposals will be brought forward to make voting on English issues solely for English MPs. He also announced that Lord Smith of Kelvin, who chaired the organising committee for Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games, has been appointed executive chair of the Scottish Devolution Commission.