What's Next for Scotland?

Pro-Union supporters celebrate as Scottish referendum polling results are announced at the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland, on September 19, 2014.
GLASGOW, Scotland — Scotland voted 'No' to independence on Thursday. After a long night, here are some of the key questions to consider:

What happened?

(a) The media and mainstream politicians successfully implemented "project fear" — a tsunami of warnings that it would be bad for business and lead to an unstable currency. Some of their warnings were justified, others spin. But Scotland — as the UK's second most prosperous region — took the warnings seriously.
(b) The main political parties delivered a last-minute compromise giving Scotland more powers to tax and spend, and guaranteed its right to run a free healthcare service, even if the rest of the UK sees a more privatized one in the future. Also they guaranteed Scotland will go on getting subsidized by the rest of the UK.


A member of the Radical Independence Campaign cries as referendum results are announced at the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland, on September 19, 2014.

Will the issue go away?

Well, there'll have to be big changes in UK politics. As I write, British PM David Cameron is preparing to make a statement — it will most likely say Scotland gets these guaranteed extra tax and spend powers in return for its members of parliament losing their right to vote on English issues (e.g. the English and Welsh healthcare system) in the main London parliament.
That's a big deal and may require a constitutional convention, which opens another Pandora's Box.
So there's more drama to come. But if they can deliver what they promised, the British political establishment will in fact bury the issue of Scottish independence for at least a generation. However that's a big if.

Pro-union supporters celebrate as Scottish independence referendum results are announced at a 'Better Together' event in Glasgow, Scotland, on September 19, 2014.

What was all the fuss about?

Scotland has oil. It has a left-wing voting electorate that can only ever get either a Conservative government it loathes or a Labour government it sees as failing to deliver. So political independence really mobilized lots of young people and, as it turns out, lots of people from housing projects and marginalized communities. Right now, as I write, some of them are refusing to leave Glasgow's main square. They are angry and will remain angry.
At a deeper level, the fuss was about the same things every other crisis is driven by: an economic system that does not deliver to the majority; an young generation empowered by greater access to education and info-tech; political classes that seem remote and self-serving.

I don't see this energy dissipating. But it will now divert into localized, Scottish issues and we may get a broad-left party formed in opposition to Labour — as in Spain. Meanwhile, the Brits will carry on imposing big, painful decisions on themselves by holding yet another referendum on whether to stay in the European Union — probably in 2017.

What did we learn?

That referendums asking binary questions often prompt people to stick with the status quo. That economics was more important than political idealism. That if you give people a chance to vote on something big — and real — they turn out in enormous numbers: 90% turnout was common in some big towns.
Above all that
Scotland is a brilliant place. If it was not on your list of places to go, maybe it should be now. It's a country of young educated people, not all of them wearing kilts, niche trendy businesses, gothic architecture and — yes, a bit of feisty street culture — but also massive optimism.

Oh, and eagles. Islands, mountains, eagles, skiing, whiskey and clubs that only throw you out as it gets light.

A Better Together supporter falls asleep under balloons as the party celebrate the referendum result at the campaign Headquarters at the Marriott Hotel on September 19, 2014 in Glasgow,

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