Aberdeenshire voted overwhelmingly against independence and I was among those who breathed an immense sigh of relief both at the outcome and that this drawn out “neverendum” was at last over.
Over the last few months I and my team along with Better Together knocked on thousands of doors across the area. There was, throughout, always a clear majority opposed to independence, which made me suspicious of some of the opinion polls in the latter part of the campaign.
I spoke to people who were anxious and, in some cases, angry that we were having to make a choice. Of course, I did also speak to Yes voters, some of whom acknowledged there was uncertainty and risk but most of whom did not want to discuss it – which I respected.
People were also angry with the SNP Government that has failed to deliver for the North East – on transport, local government funding, health and education. In addition they saw powers sucked away to the central belt, which is why we need more radical devolution within Scotland which has become much more centralised under SNP diktat.
In the event, I calculate that across Gordon the vote was two to one against independence. That means in an area that, in recent years, Alex Salmond claimed to be his own back yard, the proposition on which he has based his entire political career was roundly rejected.
I have no doubt there are Yes voters who are disappointed that they did not win but there is no place for bitterness or resentment.
Mr Salmond made a reasonably dignified speech announcing his resignation as SNP leader but spoiled it within 24 hours by returning to his old combative self, complaining voters had been tricked and hinting at some future unilateral declaration of independence.
Had the vote gone the other way I have no doubt the inadequacy of the independence case would have quickly emerged. To ask people to vote Yes on such an uncertain basis with so many unanswered and unanswerable questions was, I believe, irresponsible.
Extra powers for the Scottish Parliament, particularly over taxes, can and must be delivered. I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues will do everything we can to ensure this. The irony is that a smaller party like the Liberal Democrats has done more to progress the cause of Home Rule than anyone else. We ensured, through the Constitutional Convention that what was delivered was a Parliament (not an Assembly) with significant powers elected by a proportional system (although the two votes system has proved a mistake as it gave the SNP a majority on minority vote).
We have since delivered control over half of income tax, landfill tax and stamp duty and have set out proposals to go further. Under the Commission chaired by our former leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, we propose: That the Scottish Parliament should have control of the rates and bands of all income tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax and air passenger duty; That Corporation tax should continue to be operated and collected at UK level, but the proceeds raised in Scotland would be assigned to the Scottish Parliament. While we have been working away to move Scotland towards Home Rule and lay the foundations for a Federal United Kingdom the SNP have stood on the sidelines, hurling abuse and refusing to engage – insisting on independence, nothing less, even though their lack of engagement meant they had not thought through how independence could be achieved. We recognise we have to proceed a step at a time and thinking in England is decades behind the rest of the UK. English politicians and voters tend to view Westminster as the English Parliament which for many purposes it is. There is a huge variation across the English regions – politically and economically. There is therefore a case for more regional devolution alongside working out how the all England dimension can be addressed. The extra powers for Scotland can be agreed and delivered to the timetable set out. The process for reform in England should start now but cannot hold back Scotland.
Scotland has decided to stay in the UK and we need MPs who will, of course, fight their corner for their constituents and Scotland but also work constructively to make the United Kingdom stronger and fairer in the spirit represented by the majority of Scotland’s voters – and certainly those here in the North East.