“There will be a referendum on Scottish independence”

BBC Scotland’s Political Editor Brian Taylor says a referendum on Scottish independence  will happen. He would not have put his ample shirt on it to be wrong, when he could have hesitated.

Folk in Scotland understand devolution. They get the concept. But they believed that they were voting in a parliamentary election – a Scottish Parliamentary election. Not a rehearsal, not a dry run.

The more Labour reminded people that the main Unionist party was back in Westminster power, the more folk in Scotland appeared to calculate that they could counter that by voting for the SNP. In the latter stage of the campaign, Iain Gray modified that to lay a greater stress on attacking independence directly. Different problem, same outcome. Voters were not sufficiently frightened, if at all, by these tactics.

Final thought. To amend a phrase from the Scotland Act, “there shall be a Scottish referendum”. It will happen during the forthcoming parliament

(In the election) they were not voting directly for independence. Mr Salmond openly acknowledges that. But a referendum there will be.

Reacting to the SNP victory  David Cameron appeared   to concede the fact of a referendum

I passionately believe in our United Kingdom, so I congratulate Alex Salmond on his emphatic win, but I will do everything obviously as British prime minister to work with the first minister of Scotland, as I always do, and treat the Scottish people and the Scottish government with the respect they deserve.  But on the issue of the United Kingdom, if they want to hold a referendum, I will campaign to keep our United Kingdom together, with every single fibre that I have.

Right now Alex is trusting the Westminster and the pro union parties at home to make an almighty balls of it.  Ed Miliband, inexperienced and stuck in his metropolitan mindset made the crucial error in the campaign by treating the Holyrood elections as a stepping stone to Uk revival and Scots Labour tamely went along with it until too late.

The interesting question now is how Salmond uses his demand for greater taxation powers than the Scotland Act provides. Can concessions be made on Holyrood powers that have the effect of buttressing the Union case and deprive Alex of a platform of fresh grievance?  Measured concessions to a succesful devolved government is the way to tackle Alex. Ironically the Lib Dems, like Danny Alexander and Jim Wallace will probably be the coalition’s best advisers and give themselves a small platform for revival.

Legally Scottish devolution may not have introduced full self- determination for Scotland.   But the Westminster hurdles against it are made of paper. Separation can only be decided by the Scottish people.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London