Will no vote lead to significant extra powers for Scotland?

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Thomas Carl LundbergLecturer in Politics, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow

I think the ‘no’ vote came as a result of many Scots fearing the risks involved in leaving the UK. The ‘yes’ campaign did not point out the risks of remaining in the UK enough (though there was a late attempt to scare people about the possibility of cuts from Westminster affecting Scottish public services, especially the health service), and the overly positive message, making an independent Scotland look like the Nordic countries, might have looked unrealistic. The class issue was very important in voting, with poorer people voting ‘yes’ and better-off people (who would have more to lose) voting ‘no’. A ‘no’ vote will not necessarily lead to significant extra powers for Scotland, despite what the UK government claims. There are already extra powers (mainly over personal income tax) on the statute books as a result of the Scotland Act 2012 (to be implemented in a couple years), and the three main UK-wide parties have said they would like to add to them, though they disagree on the details, and none of the proposals is very radical; for example, no one is saying that Scotland should be entitled to revenue from the oil in its waters. From a political standpoint, there is no way that the rest of the UK could grant a significant extension of autonomy to Scotland because this would not be acceptable to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which would probably be put at a disadvantage. People in the rest of the UK are not happy with what are seen as special privileges now in Scotland (free prescriptions, free university tuition, etc), so I’m not sure that the current funding system (which favours Scotland) will be retained, despite UK government promises. The SNP will continue to blame Westminster for Scotland’s problems. So, we may see greater tensions and problems across the UK and within Scotland, partially because of raised expectations on the part of the Scots, partially because of the adversarial and polarised politics of Scotland, and partially because of the rest of the UK’s resentment of the autonomy Scotland currently has (and any attempts to increase this).

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