SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: Election campaign offers Tories the chance to build new support, writes Peter Jones
Instead of the weekend of euphoria Yes campaigners had looked forward to, there is depression. If there is drink, it is for the drowning of sorrows and not for Formula One-type celebrations.
For the No side, there should be more relief than celebration. What looked won at the outset, looked in danger of being lost close to the end.
But now what were very real concerns about savings, pensions, jobs, taxes all heading in the wrong direction because of the disruption the construction of an independent state would cause, have vanished.
And in the short term, because there is little doubt that a lot of economic activity was held up until after the referendum – business decisions to invest, individuals choosing to buy a new home – a bounce-back will confirm their view that No was the right choice.
The Yes campaigners and the SNP should not waste too much money on drink. Apart from it being bad for their health, far from failing to achieve change, they have set in motion a great deal of movement.
Although the radical change to Britain they sought is now unattainable, the campaign pressures have given birth to the promise of an unprecedented reworking and decentralisation of the UK’s constitution.
There will be change to Scotland’s devolution settlement.
The SNP derided the joint pledge of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and Ed Miliband that more tax-levying power and control over welfare would be delivered to the Scottish Parliament.
And, in Gladstone’s phrase, Mr Cameron is promising “home rule all round” with more devolution to Wales, Northern Ireland, and England, raising a thousand questions which have to be answered in a mere five months.
Lord Smith of Kelvin will need Herculean strength and Solomoniac wisdom to clear a way through for just as soon as this campaign has ended, the next campaign, for the General Election in May next year, begins with the arrival of the party conference season.
These conferences have the added edge of being where judgment will be delivered on the three party leaders’ handling of the referendum. None appears to have emerged with any credit, either north or south of the Border.
But Scotland, which otherwise might not have mattered at all in this coming election save for debate about whether it should be excluded from it, now does matter.
Messrs Miliband and Clegg have seats to defend, whereas Mr Cameron might hope to have seats to win. All will be having a hard look at the SNP’s Westminster seats.
The Conservatives might well get some serious spring in their step. Not only have they outflanked Labour with the strength of their devolution proposals, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson was noticeably the best performer amongst the Scottish leaders of the UK parties.
At least at one large public meeting, the BBC’s youth question and answer in Glasgow’s Hydro, which lasted an hour, she was not booed. That can’t have happened to any Conservative in Scotland for at least 30 years. Another historic moment.