It is done. The votes are tallied, the dream is over. The Union endures.
And so goes that last, best hope of meaningful change in UK political direction.
In some respects the Scottish Nationalists have scored a great victory, as it seems they will actually get something close to the "Devo-Max" option they wanted but which Westminster refused to allow on the ballot paper, and they have, albeit briefly, utterly terrified the London-based UK political establishment in the process. There will be change too in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland as the new powers for the Scottish Parliament will be balanced against new powers for the three other countries that make up the United Kingdom. And the Tories can press ahead with their UKIP-beating In/Out referendum in 2017 knowing that Scottish "In" votes will help them stave off the nuclear option of a unilateral withdrawal from the EU.
David Cameron's Conservative (and Unionist) Party have re-established themselves as the natural governing party of the entire United Kingdom - Labour will need to steal even more Tory policies and move even further to the right if they ever want to win another UK general election. Following the unionist victory I fully expect the Tories to win the 2015 general election by a landslide, David Cameron is now the Tory hero Prime Minister who saved the Union, and got the leader and senior figures of the Labour party dancing to his tune in the process. That was one hell of a high risk gamble, but it has paid off handsomely. Damn well played Mr Cameron, damn well played.
Looking back, the coalition Conservatives have actually achieved a huge amount over their term in office.
- First they comprehensively slew the dragon of Proportional Representation, ensuring the UK retains it's winner-takes-all first-past-the-post electoral system. It may not be a fair system but it leads to strong and stable governments, and favours the Conservative Party.
- Then David Cameron brought in Equal Marriage, as his own personal campaign, overcoming opposition from within his own party and uniting coalition partners and the opposition in moving social progress forward. Just like Margaret Thatcher before him, David Cameron is very good at reading social changes, and riding them to victory. Equal marriage was inevitable, and so he seized the moment for the Conservatives, writing his own place in the history books in the process.
- And now the Scottish Nationalist dragon is also slain, and while the dream of an independent Scotland will never fully fade, as a realistic concept it's now dead for a generation at least. Salmond has won Devo-Max. Cameron has won the Union.
The markets are happy, shares have risen world-wide and the pound briefly hit a two year high against the Euro last night. Business is happy, the future is now one of certainty and union instead of the invariably unpredictable birth-stages of a new nation.
The UK's rightward drift will continue. While I'm sure we will retain our National Health Service in some form - some institutions are too embedded in the national psyche to ever fully abolish - full-scale privatisation is now more or less inevitable. This isn't vindictiveness, or even entirely self-interest, from the Tories, rather most Conservatives genuinely believe that state services are best provided by private for-profit contractors instead of what they see as bloated and inefficient public sector organisations riven by internal politics and empire-building. And meanwhile the welfare state will continue to move from being "support for all, paid by all", to a form of government-administered charity, run through private contractors, providing support to "the deserving" while mercilessly hounding those regarded as scroungers.
From a purely personal point of view, even as a lifelong believer in Scottish independence, there's no point crying over what might have been, and instead I plan to do the very Scottish thing of taking the situation as it is and making the most of it.
- My Glasgow flat will probably rise in value, markets like stability. Possibly I can remortgage it and wipe out my debts, freeing up money currently going in payments to go into investments, towards the deposit for my next buy-to-let, instead.
- The companies which will provide the soon-to-be-privatised NHS services are probably going to do very well over the next few years. I currently have an underperforming endowment policy left over from an old mortgage, possibly I should cash it in and invest the money in the private health sector.
- The future of the Caledonian Sleeper trains from London to Scotland should now be assured. Scottish MPs will continue to travel to and from Westminster and many of them use the train as a more convivial and civilised (not to mention environment-friendly) option over flying. A deal was recently struck to replace the current 1970s sleeper fleet with all-new coaches to be built in Spain, hopefully those vehicles will run for at least as long as the current ones have. I've used the sleeper occasionally and it is the most civilised possible way to travel to Scotland short of actually owning you own private train.
- I can carry on living and working here in Yorkshire, where I have very many dear friends and colleagues, without the nagging feeling that I really should move home and help to build the new nation. That was one that really did bother me about the possibility of independence.
On thing that will change - I'm going to spend a lot less time on social media, especially Facebook, from here on. During the campaign I really have let it take over my life, it was affecting my work, it was affecting my ability to get new material for my website out on time, I was spending far, far longer than I should have debating political points and writing posts. Much as I love all my on-line friends, I need to refocus and spending far less time on Facebook will be a big part of that. I'll still post sometimes, especially if there's club stuff (either my Infernal or Howard's Carpe Noctum) to promote, but the endless debates and point answering needs to stop - I need the time for other things. Anyone who needs to contact me personally should email, firstname.lastname@example.org will always reach me.
I will of course still read all followups to my own posts though, so please feel free to reply to this one!
So, to sum up, onwards to a new future. Not the one I hoped and dreamed of, but the only one we have. All steam ahead, into the rain and mist.