There is no hiding place. Enoch Powell said that all political careers end in failure, and I must confess to failure in my expectation of the referendum result, following which I think I should go back into retirement.
There can be no quibble about the result. The number of people who voted was, by any standard, huge. We are a mature people who have gone through the longest and most profound democratic debates in our history, at the end of which we are probably the most politically educated nation in Europe.
The ballot was conducted fairly and for all the antics of a fringe on both sides, the debates themselves, either in the formal settings in which ‘leaders’ tangled with each other, or in the many crowded public meetings, was reasonably civilised. The most lethal weapon thrown at me was an Oxo cube.
Scotland’s people have decided to remain within the UK. But there is the question of what exactly will be the future relationship will the other parts. I suspect lodged firmly in the public mind is the promise of more powers. I don’t want to strike a sour note, but they are more difficult to deliver than perhaps is realised. Power over how much devolution is retained at the sovereign parliament at Westminster. Scotland cannot “take” more powers, they have to be given to us by a House of Commons in which we do not exercise a majority – a House of Commons which from now on will be concerned with the coming general election in May 2015. It’s something that will involve all sorts of political manoeuvres as each party seeks to position itself for the campaign. I doubt if “more powers” for Scotland will be high up the agenda this side of that election, in terms of delivery.
It is now incumbent on the No side to take the lead on how “more powers” are to be defined, but before any final decision is reached the Yes electors, who are a substantial minority, must be included in the discussions. I am sure, once the dust settles, Alex Salmond’s SNP and the others involved will be happy to play a constructive part in such a dialogue. The No vote cast yesterday has, quite rightly, set the parameters of policy, but getting all of Scotland involved is imperative if we are to have a constructive examination of where we now want to go as a permanent part of the UK.