Scotland: Picking up the pieces
Lorraine Mallinder reports from Scotland.
Walking through a drizzly Edinburgh, it appears that life goes on as usual. But scratch beneath the surface and you sense that people are struggling to make sense of it all.
The No camp is relieved but not exactly jubilant. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has been passed up in favour of an uncertain constitutional future. As the spotlight moves to Westminster, there's a realization that it's all out of Scotland's hands now. Was theirs a pyrrhic victory?
The Yes camp is nursing a broken dream. Having come within touching distance of freedom, where do they go now, all these hundreds of thousands of people who are now politically engaged? Irvine Welsh, the Scottish writer, wrote a heartfelt tribute to the movement in Saturday's Guardian:
"Scotland's post-devolution generation is a different breed to their predecessors; they've been building a new state in their imagination, from the basis of a limited but tangible parliament in Edinburgh. They see the possibilities in full statehood, and came from nowhere to deal a body blow to Britain's tired and out-of-touch elites. The smartest of them have always seen independence as a process, not an event, and having come so unexpectedly close, they won't be going into a depressive hungover funk. They'll be keen for a rematch, and they'll get it soon."
Over-optimistic? Time will tell.
We'll now be moving into a constitutional battle that could last years. I'll be interested to see how Gordon Brown takes this forward. Some credit the No win to the former Labour PM's speech on the eve of the referendum, dubbed the performance of his career. He has vowed to ensure that Westminster delivers on its promises to grant more powers to the Scottish parliament.
With the three-party pro-union alliance fast disintegrating, what will those powers be? An almighty row is currently brewing between Labour and the Tories in Westminster. For a number of reasons too complex to go into here, Brown may find it impossible to reconcile his loyalty to Labour with his loyalty to Scotland.
The bottom line is that any reforms will have to involve real decentralization of power and an equitable settlement between the four entities that make up the UK. A newly empowered electorate, organized through social media, will see anything else as a sham.
As for Alex Salmond, he announced he would be resigning as Scotland's first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party. His legacy may not be his cherished dream of independence, but rather a fundamental change in the UK's political makeup. What to say of this self-styled, ebullient politician, who has, to paraphrase Scotland's national anthem, sent Westminster's politicians homewards "tae think again"?
As one television commentator puts it, "No man is irreplaceable, but some men are unforgettable. ... Alex Salmond is truly unforgettable."
Views from the street
John, 23, clerk:
I'm devastated, in all honesty. I really wanted independence. I really wanted a chance for us to go it alone. But it's fair. We've just got to get on with it. I fear divisions. I've seen a lot of arguments on Facebook. I don't think Scotland will ever be the same again. More people want independence than ever. They don't trust Westminster, and they don't trust the media.
Kyle, 16, student:
We should have been independent, but we're not. The people in Westminster lied and said all this stuff to people — that we would lose our money, and the oil would run out — and all the people that weren't sure voted no.
Morgane, 25, office worker:
I think Scotland will remain a strong country as part of the UK. We're better for the military powers. I think we need Trident. It's a good thing to have here because it creates lots of jobs.
Alan, 54, manager:
I voted No, but I'm not celebrating. I feel quite low, actually. I had worries an independent Scotland couldn't really punch its weight politically, and the promises were unrealistic. It's been a long haul. It'll take a long time for everything to heal.