In the Day After Judgement, Jim Gallagher, Visiting Professor in Government, sets out his views about what should happen now that the Scottish people have voted No.
He argues it would be a serious error if either Scotland or the UK were to conclude things could revert to business as usual. Agreement on the full detail of devolution plans is needed across the parties and then legislation. The challenge for the Scottish government will be to engage constructively in this process.
A more complex task will be to take the opportunity of reconstituting the union, building the UK’s territorial constitution. This needs both updating and restating; to reflect not just the place of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but the reality that England has a constitutional existence also, to be expressed in parliamentary procedures to deal with English legislation. All of this needs to be drawn together and codified. Having done so, the UK needs to manage such a constitution, not ignore it, and manage it for the long run.
The referendum has been both divisive and energising. Reconciliation is necessary, but can only proceed on the basis of honesty. Obligations fall on both sides – to accept the result, and to be magnanimous in victory. The approach taken by the SNP leadership will be critical here, but the inclusiveness from other parties matters too. Crowing is to be avoided, but so too is defiance: the SNP have to decide how to reconcile themselves to the voters’ verdict.
For the Scottish polity more widely, after nearly seven years of constitutional focus, proper discussion of domestic policy is long overdue. Politics for rather than just about Scotland is needed. The independence referendum caused Scotland to look at itself in a way that no nation has ever had the chance to do: all involved now have an obligation to act as if they are in not just the first days of a better Scotland, but of a better United Kingdom as well.