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Developments in the middle east have moved Westminster politicians' attention, and that of London journalists, on from the fallout from the Scottish referendum. But expectations have now been raised both in Scotland for further devolved powers and in England for constitutional change which will soon return these issues to the top of everyone's agenda. Indeed, already the shape of the coming debate is becoming clearer.
This article considers first, what the Scottish National Party is likely to do next to pursue its aims, given the position that its 45% vote and the response of the Westminster politicians has put that party in. In later posts, I shall I turn to the question of how the two largest unionist parties might address the dilemmas each faces.
Having come fairly close to a majority for secession, the new leaders of the SNP who take over from Alex Salmond will be looking for an opportunity to capitalise on the momentum they were able to sustain in the final months of the 2014 referendum campaign. The “vow” made by the leaders of the three main unionist parties in their last-minute intervention to persuade wavering Scots to support the union will soon present the SNP with an opportunity. Because the vow's terms were so imprecise (see my article about its limitations published immediately after the leaders' statement, it should not be too difficult for the next SNP leader to declare whatever the government offers as being in default, by comparison with what the SNP will claim they were led to expect. Should Conservative backbenchers make determined effort to make the offer of further devolution for Scotland conditional upon reform of the voting system in Westminster on laws which are to apply only in England, the SNP will find it easier still to try to charge UK politicians with “reneging” on whatever the SNP claims the terms of the “vow” led it to expect. The next step for the SNP will be to claim that this default releases it from the terms of Mr Salmond's undertaking not to bring back the question of independence to a second referendum for “a generation”. It appears that many Scots expect no less. Lord Ashcroft's organisation polled Scots after the referendum, discovering no fewer than 45% of “yes” voters thought it likely that the SNP would find a way to bring the question back before the Scottish people within five years.