They had the Labour Party in Scotland in a state of meltdown, with Ed Miliband’s ratings lower among Scots than those of David Cameron. Poor Miliband was so invertebrate in his campaigning that he contrived to make Gordon Brown – probably the least successful prime minister of the past 100 years – look relatively charismatic.
The Yes campaign had ensured that only people in Scotland could vote on the future of our country – excluding even the vast numbers of Scots who live and work in London, many of whom were not happy at the idea of becoming foreigners. The Yessers were working with the grain of general public disgruntlement at the “Westminster” elite and old-fashioned politics.
They had all this going for them and they still managed to lose, and lose big. It wasn’t close. It was a lead, for the Noes, of 10.6 per cent. The question is settled for a generation, surely. I mean, for 20 or 30 years at least. The people have spoken, and they have plumped for Britain; and thank heavens for that.
Now is the time we should be talking about the future of Britain and the colossal potential of British business and British technology and British universities, and all the wonderful things that we British people are going to do together; and here is Salmond back on the telly, only four days later, claiming that there needs to be some kind of re-run, and saying he still wants to get divorced. Why the hell?
He says it is because of the “vow” that the party leaders made, on the eve of the poll, that encouraged people to vote No. They promised that they would give extra powers to Scotland if they stayed in the Union – and Salmond now says that they are breaking those promises.
What a load of tosh. Let us leave aside his claim that the No campaign depended on those last-ditch undertakings (though I doubt very much that the vow made that much difference to the result). It is simply not true that the undertakings have been breached; on the contrary, all political parties are going to huge lengths to be obliging. The “vow” that appears on the front of last week’s Daily Record is actually quite vague. It boils down to “extensive” new powers for the Scottish parliament and government, and an agreement to get to work on the agenda as soon as possible. David Cameron is putting William Hague in charge, and we are promised details by Burns night in January.
That strikes me as blisteringly fast, when you consider the gravity of the matters at stake. If we give any more powers to Scottish politicians, then we simply must address the basic unfairness to England; indeed, it should have been addressed years ago, as soon as devolution kicked in.
I remember sitting in fury as an MP in 2004, and watching as Labour used Scottish MPs to impose a system of tuition fees on England – when English MPs had no reciprocal say over the arrangements in Scotland; and when those tuition fees would not apply to any students in Scotland except, of course, English students, who are made to pay more than students from any other EU country. Those Scottish MPs had no jurisdiction over education, health, criminal justice etc in Scotland; and yet they were being used as lobby-fodder to rule England. This is a basic problem of legitimacy, and it must be sorted out – probably by excluding Scottish MPs from many votes on devolved matters.
It won’t necessarily be easy, but it isn’t beyond the wit of man. It can be done, while keeping the Union together and giving Scotland the “extensive” new powers that have been agreed. It is just bonkers to say that it can be done overnight.
We should also proceed with devolutionary measures to promote growth in the great cities of England, by giving them more powers to raise locally the taxes that are spent locally. Again, these are not snap-of-the-finger solutions (and they don’t answer the West Lothian question of imbalanced parliamentary representation); but London and the eight core cities have put forward some good, modest and workable solutions, and they deserve to be taken seriously.
All this will need calm and time and thought; and all will be achieved much more easily if the Scottish nationalists realise that for the foreseeable future they should forget their yearning for a split with England, and celebrate all the progressive and glorious things the British are going to do together.
As for dear Alex, you fought a good fight, but you lost decisively, and now is the time for a period of silence. Haud your wheesht, laddie. Save your breath to cool your porridge.