One clear theme runs through this chapter. Whether Scotland votes ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on 18th September 2014, there is broad agreement between people in Scotland and those in the rest of the UK about how their future relationship should be handled. Should Scotland vote ‘Yes’, the country would like to keep the monarchy, the BBC and the pound, and it appears that public opinion in the rest of Britain could be persuaded to accept such arrangements. The Scottish Government’s wish to see Britain’s nuclear weapons facility removed from the Clyde might be thought a potential flashpoint, but it seems that whatever people in Scotland think, their counterparts in England and Wales would not want these weapons to stay in an independent Scotland anyway. The one issue where there might be some difficulty is whether people in Scotland should be allowed to retain their existing British citizenship while claiming a new Scottish one, not because the two publics take a different view on the subject but because both are apparently rather suspicious of allowing people to carry more than one passport.
If Scotland votes ‘No’ there are potentially both old grievances and new pressures that would have to be addressed. Yet neither seems insurmountable. Public opinion in England would like to stop Scottish MPs from voting on English laws, but it seems that most people in Scotland would not object. Meanwhile, Scotland’s share of public spending still does not seem to be a point of serious contention between the two publics. Scotland would, in principle, at least like to see its devolved institutions have more responsibility for taxation and welfare, but this appears to be a pressure to which England would be willing to accede. In any event, there is a lack of enthusiasm among the Scottish public to see greater responsibility translate into major policy differences between Scotland and its neighbours. Meanwhile, both publics are still willing to accept the idea of sharing the risks and responsibilities associated with taxation and welfare across the United Kingdom.
There is nothing inevitable about this state of affairs and attitudes could well change. For example, we have seen that public opinion in England has become a little more concerned about Scotland’s share of public spending and having Scottish MPs voting on English laws than it was in the early days of devolution. The rhetoric of the referendum campaign might yet create differences between the two publics. But once the heat of the battle is over and the combatants on both sides have to deal with the consequences of whatever vote transpires, it seems that if they listen to their publics they should be able to reach an accommodation with which most people would be willing to live.
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