Relief, actually. Not joy. A battle won is better than a battle lost but still an exhausting, bloody, business. Scotland voted and made, in my view, the right choice. The prudent choice. The bigger-hearted choice.
But 45 per cent of my countrymen disagree. That’s something to be respected too. Moreover a good number of No voters did so reluctantly and not because they were necessarily persuaded by the case for Union but because they felt the Yes campaign had not proved its own argument beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s an important qualification. A reminder that the Union is a contract and support for it remains provisional.
To put it another way, a 55-45 victory is both a handsome margin – wider than the 53-47 I had guessed – and a remarkable repudiation of the Union. It is clear enough to be decisive; close enough to demand modesty in victory. . . .
The most heartening thing, for me, in the campaign’s final days was the rediscovery that, actually, Britain was something – a place and an idea too – that was worth fighting for. The country – countries, even – may need to change now but there was, at last and at least, an attempt to make a No vote an expression of something bigger than a question of accountancy. . . .
And yet, inescapably, class and generational division is a large part of this story. The Union was saved, in the main, by wealthier and older Scots. The poor chose differently. That’s an uncomfortable fact for Unionists and one that requires attention. Plenty of Yes votes were cast in hope more than expectation; many others were votes predicated on the fear that voting No offered no prospect of personal or community improvement.
One lesson of this campaign is that the poor, so often marginalised, have a voice too and that they should be heard. This too, I think, should temper Unionist joy this morning. A sobering, timely, even necessary, reminder that the status quo does not float all boats. Too many of our people lack the means or opportunity to make the most of their lives; too much human capital and potential is still squandered. . . .
Scotland was a good place before the polls opened and remains a fine place now. The task, in which we are all shareholders, is to make it a still better one. That’s a heavy responsibility to be born by the victors and a hefty consolation for the vanquished. We beat on, Scotland, we beat on.