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Scottish Referendum: What happens next?

Scottish Referendum: What happens next?
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The result

  • No 2,001,926 (55.3%)
  • Yes 1,617,989 (44.7%)
  • Turnout 84.5%

The 10% margin of victory clearly settles the issue and there won’t be another vote on Independence in a generation. Under the Scotland Act 1998 the responsibility for calling a referendum remains with Westminster and although it acquiesced to the SNP’s demands for this referendum, it almost certainly wouldn’t again.

More powers for Scotland?

Nothing will change before the UK General Election in May 2015 – there simply isn’t time for legislation to clear parliament.

William Hague will chair a new Cabinet Committee looking at the constitution for all parts of the UK including England (“proposals will be ready to the same timetable”), the aim being to pass a Bill at the end of this Parliament which could be implemented by the next. However, as one Parliament can’t commit another to anything, any agreement would need support of whatever Government we have after the General Election.

Likely to be devolved after 2015:

  • Scottish Parliament is likely to be given powers over income tax of those working in Scotland.
  • Devolution on some welfare benefits such as housing and attendance allowance, but not pensions.
  • Overall message will be “You can have Scandinavian-style benefits if you want; but you will have to raise the money”.

What won’t be devolved: Corporation Tax – the UK government has allowed differential rates in Northern Ireland so that it can get close to the tax rate in the Republic of Ireland. It won’t now allow differential rates between Scotland and England.

This is a minor victory for the SNP. They had wanted a “devo max” question on the ballot paper giving people the option of more powers for the Scottish Parliament. The UK Government ruled out having that question, but have now agreed to giving (some of) those additional powers.

More powers for England?

Cameron’s Downing Street declaration of “English votes for English laws” appears to be a political aspiration to shore up support within the Conservative Party and cause problems for Labour. Although a logical response to the “West Lothian Question” [why can a Scottish MP not vote on issues about Scottish education (because it is devolved to Holyrood) but can vote on issues about English education] it is much harder to achieve in practice and may become a theme within the next General Election.

Almost as soon as Cameron made his statement Nigel Farage decreed that whatever Hague eventually suggested would not be enough. Farage kicked off his campaign being pictured posting letters to Scottish MPs, asking them to abstain on English votes.

Labour MPs have already come out strongly against English devolution, which would largely be to their disadvantage, losing 41 votes (currently) on health and education legislation which might mean that a future Labour government would not have a majority on those issues.

The real question now is whether constitutional matters can, finally, become an issue for English voters

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Implications for Britain’s membership of the EU

This morning Britain is more likely to remain in the EU because:

  1. Scotland’s votes will mean that a Labour government is more likely – which would mean no referendum;
  2. Scotland’s voters are slightly more pro-EU than England’s – so they may tip a referendum towards “staying in”;
  3. (most importantly) the template for the “stay in” campaign has been written in Scotland – it simply says: “the risk of separation is too great”.

The next Scottish Government

The next General Election for the Scottish Parliament is in 2016. Although the SNP will be depressed by losing today, they will see that the 45% vote for Independence is the same as the vote which gave them an overall majority in 2011. Of course within the Yes vote there were Green and some Labour voters, but equally there were many who voted for Salmond in 2011 because of his perceived competence not because they wanted an Independent Scotland.

For the other Parties, the Scottish leaders of both Labour and the LibDems did not appear to be influential, indeed it took a return of Gordon Brown to steady the No nerves.

Therefore there is no reason to believe that the SNP won’t be the largest Party after then next Scottish General Election.


  • The vote: 55.3% No; 44.7% Yes, settles the issue for a generation. Westminster controls when referendums are held and won’t agree to another vote.
  • No transfer of new powers before next General Election, but aim to prepare them for next Parliament.
  • Plan is to devolve personal taxation and benefits to Scottish Parliament, but not pensions.
  • Corporation tax will NOT be devolved.
  • Cameron’s call for “English votes for English laws” may become a 2015 battleground, but Labour very much against, so would only be implemented by a further Conservative Government.
  • The template for the “stay-in” side in any EU referendum has been written: “the risk of separation is too great”.
  • SNP still on course to be largest party in 2016 Scottish General Election – 45% vote for independence almost same as their 2011 vote which gave them an overall majority.


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