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Unionists should beware a legacy of bitterness

Unionists clearly hope that the joint decision by the three main unionist political parties to oppose a currency union with an independent Scotland will critically damage the credibility of the Scottish Government's economic plans and in doing so stymie a Yes vote in September.

But in adopting this wrecking-ball stance, what kind of post-No landscape are unionists preparing for Scotland?

Consider the lie of the land in Scotland, in the aftermath of a No vote. First and foremost, the unionist hope that a No vote will "put the independence debate to bed once and for all" will prove to have been delusional. The desire for Scottish independence is here to stay; its appeal has never been stronger, its possible forms never more precisely defined. Scotland's independence advocates are not suddenly going to change their constitutional position just because a No vote has been declared.

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But with recent developments, there is every chance that, post-referendum, many Scots would feel deeply resentful over how the No vote was won. They would reflect upon the UK Government's lobbying of foreign governments against Scottish independence; its threats that it would not promote Scotch whisky overseas if we vote Yes; its prompting of big business to speak out against independence, the partiality of the state media and, of course, Westminster's attempts to pull the rug from under the Scottish government's currency aspirations.

It matters how Better Together engages with the referendum debate because if there is to be a positive long-term future for the UK then adopting a stance of simply cudgelling the Yes campaign's ideas represents little more than futile short-termism.

The independence referendum has come about because of preferences the Scottish voting public has expressed at consecutive Scottish ballot boxes. This pattern of voting reflects a broad consensus among Scots that the status quo is unacceptable.

This is why the articulation of clear, novel reasons for voting No is of such importance to this debate. It would offer a genuine sense of what might be possible for Scotland within the UK; it would also demonstrate the UK political establishment takes seriously the disgruntlements in Scottish society. Thus far, Better Together has demonstrated indifference to these challenges.

Casting an eye across Scotland in the aftermath of a No vote, even the most strident unionist might feel privately that what they have fought for feels neither "better" nor "together".

Dr John MacDonald is the director of the Scottish Global Forum. These views are his own and do not represent the Scottish Global Forum

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