Relief as Scots vote No, but plenty to ponder for Cameron
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FEARS of an economic meltdown sparked by a vote for Scottish independence have been abated following the clear majority for the Union to be preserved.
Japanese bank Nomura had forecast a “cataclysmic” outcome, but at 6.08am it was official, the Better Together campaign had triumphed with a clear margin of around 10%, winning by 55% to 45%.
With the three main party leaders clearly worried about the possible outcome late in what became an emotional and occasionally fraught campaign, more devolved powers were ceded to the Scottish parliament.
For anyone in business the region, the No vote is good news – who would have wanted to see the political landscape dominated for the next 18 months by rows over the currency, Scottish pensions and the location of nuclear submarines?
While the overall status quo has been preserved, the Scottish question has surely opened the door to more devolution to the English regions.
If Chancellor George Osborne’s vision of a “Northern Powerhouse” is to be delivered then more power, and money needs to be released from Whitehall to the regions to set their own economic agendas.
City Deals were a step in the right direction, but the stark truth is that the UK is still one of the most centralised democracies in the world, and that needs to change if Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool are to fulfil their potential as the economic powerhouses of the north.
The frankly ludicrous situation – known as the West Lothian question – where Scottish MPs can vote on laws only for England, also needs to be addressed finally too.
So, while David Cameron is no doubt a relieved man today, there’s plenty for him to ponder as he surveys a familiar, but at the same time, a new political landscape.
As the value of Sterling rallied after recent falls as the referendum approached, the business group The Institute of Directors said it was relieved at the outcome.
Director general Simon Walker said: “There can be no doubt that many businesses will breathe a sigh of relief that the prospect of a contentious currency debate and prolonged economic negotiations have been avoided, and yet we know that significant changes are still on the cards.”
He added: “We are now at the beginning of a national debate about economic devolution. The Scots started that debate, and now it’s time for all of us to contribute new ideas about how our nations, regions and cities are run for the benefit of the entire country.”