19 Sep 2014

Scotland's message to Westminster

The most participated in democratic event of our British electoral lives. The engagement in the referendum debate in Scotland sets a new standard in British politics.

The victory for the no campaign is a victory secured by Scots in Scotland with a huge element resting on the shoulders of former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Westminster’s engagement in the process at times has seemed to border on the embarrassing. The three Westminster leaders’ visits were dangerously close to meeting the conditions of fish when out of water.

Alastair Darling played a stolid and often poorly supported leadership of the yes campaign. The brooding, unengaged presence of Gordon Brown in the early days of the campaign did not help. But in the final days Gordon Brown came alive and the lacklustre no campaign with it.

His speech on the final day was seen by many as the finest of his life and will have done much to eclipse the disappointment that revolved around his premiership.19_westminster_g_w

David Cameron led a Westminster operation which unquestionably played a part in an event which took Britain perilously close to break-up. His next moves will define and resolve his premiership.

The referendum campaign has been an intoxicating democratic exercise. It represented something of a revolt against the Westminster elite. Westminster, as former Welsh secretary Peter Hain has already observed this morning, has looked drab, unengaged, cynical, and minimalist.

It is not too glib to suggest that Britain can never be the same again. Ukip and the yes campaign – both fuelled by despair with Westminster – are but the beginning of the threat to Westminster’s grasp on old-style democracy.

What Scotland has delivered is a yes vote of some 45 per cent or more and a no vote in which massive further devolution is implied.

It is a dangerous cocktail that it would be dangerous for Westminster either to reject or ignore.

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