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Saturday, 20 September 2014

#Indyref: They Think It's All Over

So Scotland has voted "no" to independence from the UK. Alex Salmond has resigned, the rest of the UK is celebrating (apart from the small bits that are rioting) and talk has turned to "devo max", which means further devolution for the UK's constituent parts. All in all, it's been a pretty exciting week in British politics, and for nationalist politics in general.

Not being Scottish, the vote didn't mean a great deal to me either way. On the other hand, as someone who only managed to escape the Empire's clutches less than a year ago, I could hardly begrudge the Scots wanting to do the same thing. That is to say, had I been a Scottish resident, I'd probably have voted yes.

More seriously, I've been hearing about the Scots' march toward devolution and referendum for over ten years, so it was interesting to finally get to an inflection point, where the parties involved would actually get to argue their respective cases and the people would get to decide. Looking at it from a world-historical perspective, it was also interesting to imagine how peacefully the process would play out - after all, as recently as 2010 Adam Roberts's New Model Army imagined that Scottish independence would be accompanied by bloodshed.

But I find it interesting that the question can even be raised. History is full of groups of people fighting to be free of a particular colonial or ruling power - having the question settled by the people has been tried, to my knowledge, only in very few places (Quebec's the only one that springs to mind right now).

I also believe the question will come up again. From what I read, this time the question was defeated by older voters (check this link from the Guardian for a demographic breakdown), and by the questions that were raised around currency and long-term economic viability. I can imagine future generations of Scottish leaders being able to answer these questions better - this is likely a big part of why Alex Salmond has resigned, so that the drive for independence won't be held back by being forever associated only with his name.

The other interesting point is the expected further devolution, what's being called "devo max". Some were saying this third option should have been on the ballot to start with - it's unclear to me whether Salmond or David Cameron is to blame for it not being included, but it looks like it'll happen anyway.

I'll be curious to see what form devo max takes: whether it means more oil revenues to Scotland, and whether it will mean a regional parliament for England (which is the only home nation that doesn't have one). I'll also be curious to see what comes of devolution and moves for independence if the UK ends up voting to leave the European Union.

I expected that the UK leaving the EU would be good for an independent Scotland - but in either case, I'm hoping whoever spearheaded the "Better Together" campaign this year will be available in 2017 to do the same job and keep Britain linked to the continent. Because that's a form of devolution that really would be disastrous.