There is a general view abroad in Scotland that a “no” vote in the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence would represent a political win-win situation for the country. Even if voters were to register a ballot-box rejection of full sovereignty many believe that the British government would still be obliged to yield more authority to the Scottish government, a constitutional arrangement known as “devo-max” (the maximum devolution of powers from London to Edinburgh short of independence).
However in recent weeks several cogent observers have pointed out that in such an outcome it is far more likely that the British establishment will take the exact opposite view and having narrowly escaped the dissolution of their nation-state they will likely impose severe legislative restrictions on the autonomous powers of the Scots (and Welsh). Indeed the probable scenario would also see the clawing back of some existing areas of responsibility from the “national” authorities in Edinburgh and Cardiff and a tightening of control from London.
This has already been foreshadowed in the very public questioning of devolutionary powers in Scotland by Margaret Curran, a senior Labour Party figure in the country, and by the words of Andrew Neil, a leading Scottish-born journalist and pro-Union media presence, who has pointed out that a No vote will inevitably lead to severely reduced devolutionary powers in Scotland.
A significant number of people in Scotland may well choose to vote against independence in 2014 but they should be aware that in doing so they may be also voting for the British government to re-assume many of its previously conceded powers over their nation. A vote against full Edinburgh rule could just turn out to be a vote for a return to full London rule.