Hugh Reilly: Panic pledges will not be honoured

Scottish Labour is in troubling position. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Scottish Labour is in troubling position. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: I am disappointed, though not heartbroken, that the majority of Scots decided not take the future into their own hands.

The No campaign won a clear-cut victory, capturing the game-changing support of the 90-minute nationalist demographic that bursts its lungs singing the Scottish anthem at football matches but is terrified of Scottish sovereignty.

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However, it is of some solace that thousands of hitherto apathetic citizens have become politicised by the referendum debate. All who participated in this wonderful democratic process will be demanding that the Westminster elite delivers on its Jocky-come-lately vow to devolve more powers to Holyrood. I may be going out on a limb here, but I have my doubts that whoever occupies Number 10 next year will be able to keep promises made whilst in panic-mode.

For one thing, Cameron’s Ukip-lite backbenchers will cry “for England and St George” as they seek to reverse-engineer the Barnett formula. Likewise, Miliband’s new-found enthusiasm to give Scotland more autonomy will sit uneasily with his point woman in the country, Johann Lamont. She abhors the notion of Scots being trusted with full fiscal autonomy and forged her stairheid-rammy oratorical skills in the white heat of pugnaciously opposing the setting up of a Scottish Parliament in the first place.

The likelihood is that, once the devolution magic fairy dust settles, the UK government’s London-centric obsession will carry on unabated. Scotland, which elected one Tory MP, will continue to endure either effing Conservative or Middle England Labour party policies.

With further decentralisation of power being effectively placed in formaldehyde, I believe that another referendum would be inevitable within a decade, not the next “generation or so”. The anger of an electorate that had been deceived by a duplicitous Prime Minister could only be assuaged by a second plebiscite.

It will take time for the wounds of defeat to heal. Yes campaigners will neither forget nor forgive the BBC for its biased reporting of the pro-independence case. Nick Robinson’s infamous peak-time news comment that “Salmond didn’t answer the question” – when in fact the unedited version of the media conference showed that the First Minister had spent six minutes responding to each detail of the question – went viral on social media.

The fact that Glasgow overwhelmingly voted Yes must worry Scottish Labour. It’s my fervent wish that the result in this traditional Labour heartland will prove to be a catalyst for the party to reconnect with its roots. To do so, it must rid itself of those who perceive free university education, free prescriptions and free personal care to be symptomatic of a “something-for-nothing society”. If nothing else, the debate showed that Scotland is a wealthy nation with a heightened sense of social justice than is apparent down south.

Save a few silly incidents on each side, both campaigns can be proud of the largely good-natured atmosphere that prevailed. Scots will work together to take the country forward.

And now Alex Salmond is leaving office. I feel he has taken the cause of nationalism to a level no-one could have imagined. Despite the grumblings of his petty detractors, history will judge him to be a political colossus who brought the country to the cusp of freedom. He will be a hard act to follow.