David Cameron has raised the stakes and has Scotland galloping to the brink. It is a well-intentioned but high-risk strategy. In the 2010 election, almost every sitting member increased his or her majority, thus showing the innate conservatism of Scotland.
Whatever the results of the referendum there will be much over which to negotiate – the economy and defence being paramount.
Scotland’s economic union with England raises many complex questions. A referendum result either way will not solve the fundamental question already hanging over the balance sheets. Who will bear the lion’s share of cost for public spending north of the border? And how far will economic union be unravelled to suit the different nature of Scotland’s economy?
What of defence, where Scotland has traditionally played a strong role? The air, military and naval forces north of the border have traditionally played a strong part in Scottish cultural and economic identity. Defence could play an important part in reaching a settlement more satisfactory to unionists than now seems likely and the future status of RAF and army bases could be central.
Whatever the outcome of the referendum, the Scottish Question will not be settled on the bases of existing unionism; rather, a change of direction is needed.
*Lord Fraser of Carmyllie QC, is author of Politeia’s Divided We Stand: Scotland a Nation Once Again?