Brian Monteith: No vote must not be forgotten

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SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: SNP risks voters’ wrath if they do not change tack, warns Brian Monteith

Independence has been rejected for at least a generation, if not longer. It was, as First Minister Alex Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly told us, “a once in a lifetime opportunity” – they must now be held to their words.

Ed Miliband, pictured with Johann Lamont, fears reform. Picture: Greg Macvean

Ed Miliband, pictured with Johann Lamont, fears reform. Picture: Greg Macvean

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In the rush of politicians to bring us all together after a highly divisive campaign, and for them to effect the changes that were promised, we should not allow the result to be quickly forgotten, sold as a protest or painted as only a pyrrhic victory for unionists.

Yes, healing is now required – but we cannot afford to forget that the subtle demonisation of “Westminster”, the use of “London” as a euphemism for England or the English or how the presentation of governments as something “we did not vote for” has caused the bruising division in the first place.

The First Minister was given the timing of the vote he demanded, the franchise that suited him and the question that he wanted – and still the result is an emphatic rejection of his case. The defeat is greater than expected by the pollsters – or the Yes campaign anticipated.

For the nation to move on and achieve harmony we must have acceptance by the nationalists that the vote is a rejection of independence and not a springboard to encouraging a grumbling campaign for a further referendum if the SNP is re-elected in 2016. That means the fomenting and nursing of grievances, of repeatedly blaming Westminster and carrying on with the old divisions has to stop.

Independence as a cause is no longer a serious prospect, the SNP must now get back to the business of running the Scottish Government for the benefit of all Scots – rather than seeing everything through the prism of partisan nationalist advantage that might create a gulf between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Too much damage has been done in our communities, too many serious issues neglected and too much taxpayers’ money expended already – the SNP must change its political culture or deserve the electoral wrath of the Scottish people.

I have no doubt that David Cameron is now a man on a mission of change, for not only has it always been his strategy to deliver further devolution after first killing off independence (he has already passed the Scotland Act, remember) but he encouraged Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to withdraw her line in the sand as he understood Holyrood required greater accountability through further responsibility.

Where pressure is required is to push the real conservatives that mistrust reform – the Labour Party – for it is Ed Miliband who fears the consequences of Scottish MPs no longer voting on English affairs.

We can look forward now to making the Scottish Parliament fully accountable for its actions – through it raising the vast majority of its oversized public spending budget – but we also owe it to No voters to ensure that change follows across the whole of the United Kingdom so that Scotland’s place is anchored by the sharing of responsibilities and the rebalancing of the Union.