Yesterday Scotland voted NO to independence. It's looking like the split will be 45/55 when the final ballot papers from the Highlands arrive.
This must be a great relief to a great many people. It's probably even a relief to the people who voted yes. In their heart of hearts they must have known that there would have been years or even decades of hardship ahead had they won. A rich and prosperous Scotland is of course possible, but getting there from here would have been a hard grind. Let us not forget that the reason they joined the Union three hundred years ago is because they were bankrupt. They have never really stopped being bankrupt. Only the continual arrival of new money from the UK saved them.
Of course there are many regions and cities elsewhere in the UK which are technically bankrupt and only kept afloat by money provided by tax-payers in the richer parts. The economy of Northern Ireland is a notorious example: half their cash is donated from the mainland; yes, "donated" not earned.
The referendum result is also a relief because all the big unanswered questions go away. What would the Scots have used for money? Would they have been allowed to join the EU? Could there still have been an open border with the south? None of this matters anymore. No-one is going to try to answer them now.
However the underlying motivation for independence remains. Scotland is still the poor relation; overshadowed at home and abroad.
The Scottish problem can be summed up in one word: England. There is a country right next door to Scotland where they speak the same language, recognise your qualifications, and consider you for jobs on a complete parity with their own citizens. And there are so many more of those jobs, and they pay more, and the organisations are bigger and so the opportunities greater. Scotland will perpetually leak its best people south.
Solving the problem of England is possible. It would require lower tax rates in Scotland so that all endeavours have a built-in advantage. You can pay workers less if they pay less tax because they still take home more. Your goods and services will be cheaper if your business pays less tax. Consumers will buy more stuff if the VAT rate is less and they also have more cash in their pockets.
With independence though, that would not have been possible. The Holyrood government would have been scrabbling for every pound/euro/whatever. Taxes and prices would inevitably have gone up and benefits and pensions down.
Yesterday's result comes on the back of a lot of promises made by the three main party leaders and the disappointed 45% will be looking for early delivery on those promises. The MSPs in Holyrood are awaiting the arrival of many more powers. To his credit the Prime Minister has grasped the two big nettles early on - he has already indicated that the promises will be made good before the next general election about eight months away, and he has acknowledged the "English problem" - previously called the "West Lothian question" - which is the whole issue of Scottish MPs voting on English matters in the Westminster parliament.
Progress on more powers for the Scots should be fast. All three major party leaders are on board. This should whiz through parliament hardly touching the sides.
The English problem is more of a challenge. The settlement has to be fair to the English. Let us not forget the elephant in the room - UKIP. Although they have no MPs at Westminster UKIP's power comes from the fact they could deny the Tories the next government. As mentioned in the previous post English nationalism is now awake and roaming the land. Nigel Farage knows that a rich seam of discontent will be there to be mined if the settlement is unfair to the English. If the Scots get things the English do not, UKIP will be the winner.
Farage has already said that he does not consider himself bound by the pledges made to the Scots by the three main party leaders. But he does not oppose the devolution of any power to Scotland, provided England gets the same.
So the constitutional crisis is not actually over. It rumbles on, less immediate now, but still present and still prone to erupt at some future date. Nothing has ended. No questions have been answered. But at least the Union has been preserved.