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A No vote can still bring clear positivity

What happens if the referendum next September results in a No vote, on a slender majority?

As things stand, the SNP position is that there would not be another referendum "in a generation". I heard Linda Fabiani MSP confirm this at a public meeting just last week.

Of course the term "generation" is very fluid. It is usually put at around 25 years, but it can cover any period from 15 to 35 years.

It is unusual for the SNP, particularly since it became a governing party, to make tactical errors, but I reckon this is a serious mistake. I can foresee many circumstances in which a No vote will create considerable uncertainty, rather than remove it.

People in the business community keep telling me they detest uncertainty. I reckon, quite seriously, that a No vote would create far more uncertainty than a Yes vote. I cannot believe that a rejection of independence would settle anything, in the mid or even short term.

One reason for believing this is that whichever party, or coalition, forms the next UK government in 2015, I am certain that it will continue to pursue a policy of austerity.

There are many black clouds on the horizon, and they may well affect the City of London. England's, as opposed to Scotland's, financial stability depends to a large extent on huge income generated by the City but this rich revenue stream may soon become very problematic indeed.

And, even if the City continues to boom, there will be a growing and dangerous social disconnect between it and the rest of England.

The strains will become exceptionally difficult for any UK government to manage.

Meanwhile, the White Paper on Scotland's Future, published earlier this month, states unequivocally that in the event of a No vote in next year's referendum, decisions on welfare, defence and foreign policy will continue to be taken by the UK government on behalf of Scotland.

All three policy areas will be highly contentious, for example if the UK government wants new nuclear weapons on the Clyde when it is cutting in sensitive areas elsewhere welfare will be the crucial issue. Growing pressures south of the Border would almost certainly lead to loud demands for cuts in the funding for Scotland's devolved government.

This would create a volatile political situation, to put it mildly.

I recently heard Gordon Wilson, the very shrewd lawyer who led the SNP in the early-1980s, recalling the grievous blow to self- confidence that Scotland suffered in 1979.

After that year's controversial referendum, when a clear majority of the Scots who voted wanted a devolved parliament, but failed to get it as they comprised less than 40% of the total Scottish electorate, there was an undoubted stalling in the momentum of Scottish political will. We had been swindled.

As Scots began to understand what the Thatcher government (elected later in 1979) was all about, there was concern and even affront, but the immediate constitutional impetus had been lost.

Indeed, it was largely through the efforts of one man, the late Donald Dewar, that devolution remained a key commitment during Labour's long years of Opposition in London. Without his dogged commitment, I'm not sure that the incoming Labour Government would have delivered a second referendum so soon after it came to power in 1997.

So, while I accept that morale slumped badly during the early-1980s and that these were torpid and depressed times for Scotland, I'm far from certain that history would repeat itself if Scotland votes No next year.

All Scotland has seen the success of devolved government over a period of - wait for it, a generation - and if the funding of that devolved government were threatened, I think Scotland would be prepared, and ready for a fight.

The resistance would of course be conducted by correct civil and political means. The key point is that the case for independence would be seen to be alive and well and if anything enhanced.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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