Congratulations to Alistair Darling for holding on to secure a ‘no’ outcome for the better together camp in the face of a fierce battle by Alex Salmond’s troopers.
The no outcome in the referendum marks the end of what has been a truly historic referendum. The yes camp’s constructive and positive strategy failed to overcome a negative and at times threatening no campaign. Some political careers are probably over on both sides of the debate. But what exactly lies ahead?
The first priority should be to calm the capital markets. The UK has a huge national debt problem. The UK credit card is maxed out. It should be conveyed to the outside world that there is no longer an immediate possibility of North Sea revenue not being available to the UK Exchequer to reassure the outside world we can pay our debts. And steps should be taken to avoid situations that threaten our economic future. The expectations of Scotland are high that things will improve in the future. That promise has been at the heart of the no campaign. How does the coalition government make sure that Scotland prospers and at the same time meet the rising expectations of other parts of the UK?
Somehow the obvious stance of having devolution for all parts of the UK that want it seems a recipe for disaster. A divide and conquer approach just won’t work. And if Scotland has to raise more income via imposing higher taxation due to, say, reduced funding coming via the Barnett formula, then a re-run of a demand for independence would be unstoppable. One step the UK government could take would be to follow the advice of Alex Salmond and to create a Sovereign Oil Fund the proceeds of which should be to fund investment outside London.
The prospects for all of the current UK can be as bright as before if a willingness to cooperate and compromise is adopted on all sides. The consequences of not adopting this approach are almost unthinkable.
Alex Russell is a professor of Petroleum Accounting at RGU. Peter Strachan is a professor of Energy Policy at RGU.