As one referendum sails into the sunset, another looms over the horizon. Should the Conservatives form the next Government there is a strong chance the whole of the UK will be voting on whether to leave the EU in 2017.
Eurosceptics have been urging the vote for many years but the result from Scotland today should give them pause for thought. Here's five reasons why.
1. Most fundamentally, the Scottish vote shows that it is incredibly hard to persuade people to leap into the unknown. Indeed those who earn their living running referendum campaigns generally apply a very high threshold before any vote for change can win: it needs to have support above 60% in polls when the vote is called while the opposition must be under 30%. The latest polls do not show those levels of support for leaving the EU. Of course, it is possible that will change over the next couple of years but that is far from certain.
2. The Scottish vote also shows that those advocating change need to be very sure of their economic case. In fact, they need more than that. Because there seems to be an in-built attachment to the status quo, the change advocates need a very strong economic argument. Eurosceptics who think they have such an argument are suffering from hubris. The debate over the EU will remain as finely balanced and as complex as it has for years. Unless the EU goes into complete meltdown in the next two years, it is unlikely the Eurosceptics will have such a killer economic case.
3. The pro-EU side will have learned a huge amount from the failures and successes of the No campaign. Most importantly, they will have recognised that while raising concerns and fears about leaving the EU is important, it is a risky strategy to rely solely on negativity. Expect the pro-EU side to develop and press a much more positive vision of the UK's future within the EU.
4. Many of the most fervent Eurosceptics are also the most sceptical about what has been promised to Scotland in terms of devolution. They seem likely to be the most vociferous in demanding that any change offered to Scotland is matched by equally radical changes in English governance. This means that they may well now be fighting David Cameron and the other parties on two fronts. In short, when they should be putting all their energies into the EU battle, many Eurosceptics will be looking elsewhere.
5. The Scottish vote has shown that offering voters a middle way between change and no change can be an effective vote winner. This is, of course, precisely David Cameron's strategy in insisting that he be given a chance to negotiate a new relationship with the EU to put to the voters.
The Eurosceptics often press their case with a confidence derived from the belief that there is a natural, silent majority in the UK for withdrawal from the EU. Based on yesterday's vote, however, there is a more than even chance that it will be them tasting the bitterness of defeat as the sun rises one Friday morning in 2017.
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