As the title indicates, this post is intended mostly for my Scottish readers. If there are any.
This post is not about cycling, except, in a way, it is related.
I've always thought that the general lack of progress on improving Britain's environment is bound up with a democratic and constitutional failure. It is notable that the most democratic countries in the world tend to have the best-manged environments, and the most dictatorial, the worst. The UK has always fallen somewhere inbetween, but not very close to the best.
I view the Scottish referendum as an opportunity to force some constitutional change on the UK establishment. I think the result of a 'yes' vote would, in the long run, probably, be a better, more modern and more democratic, Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, that looked after their people and their environments better.
If, as looks likely, there is a narrow win for 'no', I expect little to change. Cyclists, more than most, will know how promises made by politicians at the point of an election disappear like Scotch mist after they have won. The 11th-hour commitment by the main Westminster parties to devo max in the event of a 'no' vote is deeply unconvincing. The British establishment is extraordinarily resistant to fundamental constitutional change that would break down its powers and privileges. We have been let down on this front by the Coalition, and in particular the Lib Dems, who did not use their bargaining power effectively to gain reform. We had a referendum on changing the voting system for Westminster, but that was meaningless as it did not offer the real reform of proportional representation that constitutional progressives want. The promise to reform the house of Lords has been broken. Promises of devo max I am certain will also be broken in the same way.
The party leaders in Westminster cannot deliver devo max because there would not be support amongst English MPs for an even more asymmetrical devolution arrangement that is even more unfair on England. There is no overall, final constitutional solution being proposed here, because the party leaders haven't been able to think of one that is in the least bit probable or stable. The 11th hour pledge is a transparent panic measure that has not been thought-through. It would, indeed, be the duty of English MPs to vote against some elements of the bribe that has been proposed to try to stave off the Scottish independence bandwagon.
The referendum debate should never have focused so relentlessly on the currency, which is actually not that fundamental an issue. Scots after independence could use the Pound, or the Euro, or their own unit, or whatever currency was found to be most convenient and beneficial for Scotland and all her main trading partners, including England, Ireland, and the rest of the EU, through international negotiation, the results of which cannot be predicted before independence, because so much would change afterwards.
The focus should be on democracy, on representation, and on systems. If the parties in Westminster had been interested in a federal UK, they could have proposed one by now. But the problems are deep. England would be too dominant in a federation, if kept as a unitary governmental entity, yet England has been a united entity for so long that it cannot now be broken down in any obvious way into provinces that should appropriately have a similar level of devolution even to Wales, let alone Scotland.
My feeling is that the Union has served its purpose, a long and honourable and historical one, and it is time to move on, for Scotland (and indeed Northern Ireland as well, but that is an altogether knottier problem). We have so many international institutions that have an effect of partially pooling sovereignty that did not exist when the Union was founded: the EU pre-eminently, of course, but also the Commonwealth, the UN and NATO. Borders have effectively been broken down between all EU states now. The Union is a level of cross-border organisation that, though there was great justification for it between the 17th and 20th centuries, has now been rendered fairly surplus to requirements.
I think only a 'yes' vote by Scots will deliver the kick needed for real constitutional, democratic, change, leading to long-term social and environmental progress, in any of the nations of the current UK. The next opportunity, should this one be missed, will be a long time coming.