so the people of Scotland have spoken – and we have demanded change.
The result of the referendum has been a resounding endorsement of staying in the Union, but it has equally clearly been a cry for change. After the events of the last 24 hours, as the First Minister quite rightly says, “we cannot go back to business as usual”.
More than 1.5 million voted for independence – a hugely significant statement by any reckoning – and among No voters there is an overwhelming appetite for significant new powers for Scotland. There is also a demand for change in other parts of the UK that will have to be answered, too.
The Unionist parties have, of course, already promised significant new powers and the people of Scotland will expect those pledges to be honoured “in rapid course”, as Alex Salmond put it.
Everyone would agree on that, but it is worth sounding a note of caution amid the justified clamour for an instantly more powerful Holyrood. What is most important in this process is not that we get these powers quickly, but that we get them right.
There is risk that in rushing to do this hastily that we trip ourselves up. No-one wants an endless talking shop, we want action. But it is important that when new powers are agreed the right structures are put in place as well to ensure that we can make them a success.
The leaders of the Yes and No campaigns have responded in a statesmanlike way, stressing the importance of mutual respect and working together. We have to hope that this message is embraced by people across the country.
Next, it is incumbent on the Unionist parties to reach out to the Yes campaign and forge a genuine partnership, working together for a better Scotland. That will be showing true leadership.
But, just as the initial drive for independence came from the grassroots, so must the efforts to heal any divisions. We must all play our part.