Not Taking “No” For An Answer

Scotland Decides - The Result Of the Scottish Referendum On Independence Is Announced

Catherine Mayer recalls what Westminster promised Scotland should it vote no:

Ahead of the referendum, the three main parties in Westminster — Cameron’s Conservatives, their Liberal-Democrat coalition partners, and the opposition Labour Party — had joined together to make a series of pledges to Scottish voters. In return for Scotland’s fealty to the union, there would be a fast-tracked process to ensure a further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament on tax, spending and welfare. And the formula by which public spending is allocated by the U.K. Treasury to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would remain unchanged.

Cameron is already backtracking:

With Scotland now secure within the union, Cameron — pink cheeked and bright eyed despite a sleepless night — issued a fresh pledge, of “a balanced settlement — fair to people in Scotland and importantly to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well.” How might such a settlement be possible with Scots getting more from the public purse than their counterparts South of the border? The answer, as prominent members of his own party have already pointed out, is that it might not be.

But James Lindsay expects Alex Salmond, who spearheaded the independence campaign, “will press Westminster hard on its pledge to devolve extensive new powers to Scotland”:

The size of the yes vote highlighted the Scots’ deep dissatisfaction with their relationship with London. As Salmond presses his advantage, Westminster will confront the give-a-mouse-a-cookie problem. What it gives will not be enough; Salmond will demand more.

Elaine Teng recalls that, “while Salmond has rejected devo max on the campaign trail in recent weeks, he advocated to include it on the ballot when the referendum was initially negotiated in 2012”:

A BBC reporter tweeted Friday morning that sources within Westminster are suggesting that the new powers would be “an extension of existing responsibilities” rather than the promised devo max. The negotiations will be complicatedCameron’s own party has threatened to revolt against his leadership should he agree to implement devo maxbut with 1.5 million votes behind him, Salmond will now feel empowered to push Cameron to live up to his panicked pledge.

Numbers suggest that devo max is what Scots actually want. A June 2012 poll showed that a clear majority of Scots supported increased local power on nearly every issue, with over 60 percent of respondents favoring Scottish control of the economy, employment law, welfare benefits, and energy policy.

But Larison is skeptical “that the promise of much broader devolution of powers will end up being honored”:

It is just as likely that unionists have told Scots whatever they thought the latter wanted to hear and will later renege on the offer when the threat of independence has receded. It may turn out that the unionists “saved” the union by making promises that they couldn’t possibly fulfill, which will just lead to even more discontent with U.K. government.

Devolution will certainly be a heavy lift. Carol Matlack covers opposition from the monied interests:

While investors and corporate leaders heaved a sigh of relief over the referendum result, the prospect of a federalized U.K. clearly makes them nervous. Among their fears: a more-complex tax regime that would increase the costs of doing business and deter foreign investment. The divvying-up of political power must “not undermine the strength of the single internal market,” John Cridland, head of the Confederation of British Industry, said in a statement.

Fraser Nelson and James Forsyth marshall other arguments against further devolution:

The origins of this mess go back to the last century. The whole New Labour devolution settlement has been a disaster. It was intended to (as Labour then put it) ‘kill demand for independence stone dead’. And it was an obsession for Scottish Labour. The late John Smith wanted this done, and Tony Blair inherited the project. The idea was to make a separatist majority impossible. After all, in a four-party system with semi–proportional voting, was any party ever going to win an outright majority?

But rather than strengthen the Union, devolution weakened it by creating separate national conversations. National newspapers began to produce Scottish editions — they were a commercial success, but meant the people of Britain knew less and less about each other. Even Westminster insiders are uninterested in the Holyrood parliament. As one Tory cabinet member puts it: ‘I could not name more than three members of the Scottish government, which is bad. What’s worse, in fact, is that I could not care.’

But Martin Kettle thinks something has to give:

The immediate political question now suddenly moves to London. Gordon Brown promised last week that work will start on Friday on drawing up the terms of a new devolution settlement. That may be a promise too far after the red-eyed adrenalin-pumping exhaustion of the past few days. But the deal needs to be on the table by the end of next month. It will not be easy to reconcile all the interests – Scots, English, Welsh, Northern Irish and local. But it is an epochal opportunity. The plan, like the banks, is too big to fail.

Alex Salmond and the SNP are not going anywhere. They will still govern Scotland until 2016. There will be speculation about Salmond’s position, and the SNP will need to decide whether to run in 2016 on a second referendum pledge. More immediately, the SNP will have to decide whether to go all-out win to more Westminster seats in the 2015 general election, in order to hold the next government’s feet to the fire over the promised devo-max settlement. Independence campaigners will feel gutted this morning. But they came within a whisker of ending the United Kingdom on Thursday. One day, perhaps soon, they will surely be back.

(Photo: A discarded Yes sticker lies on cobble stones along the Royal Mile after the people of Scotland voted no to independence on September 19, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland. By Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)