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There's currently a lot of discussion about the constitutional or economic shock of a Yes vote. But if we wake up to an independent Scotland on 19th September the immediate impact will be psychological. And the trauma will take two forms.

The first will be the realisation that the combined effort of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition was not enough to save one of the central institutions of the British state for the last 300 years.  From that point on, the credibility of the most senior leadership of the British political establishment will be probably irrecoverable. The situation will be made worse by the inevitable blame game that will follow and the fact that practically zero preparation has been undertaken for the eventuality of an independent Scotland.

The second longer-term shock will therefore need to be addressed by a new generation of political leaders. That will be the cold realisation in London that the majority of the Scottish people have decided they would rather take the plunge into the unknown of independence than stick with the established certainties of Westminster. This will be an expression of anti-politics that no-one in the Commons can blame on apathy or ignorance, as they often do: it will be a clear, considered rejection of what British politics is now all about.

In fact, to describe a Scottish Yes vote as anti-politics is incorrect: it will be a rejection of one type of politics in the hope of a different kind of politics. A sticker I saw on a trip to Glasgow last week summed it up neatly: under a picture of Cameron, Miliband and Clegg, it said simply "We can do better".

So a Yes vote should be a wake up call to the next generation of political leaders likely to have greatness thrust upon them well before they expected. They should learn not just from the outcome of the referendum but from the referendum itself: when democracy is direct and meaningful, it enlivens and engages.

That generation will need to break the patrician culture that grips political parties and finally end the dysfunctional relationship with the conventional media . They must make politics and the state a platform for the creativity and genius of the multitude rather than the careers and ideological obsessions of the village of egos that is Westminster.

They will also need to embrace the fact that they will have to tie their decisions to the beliefs and values of their constituents not of their parties or their frenemies in the press. As I've explained before that means MPs placing a far higher premium on being engagers with and aggregators of their constituents' views. It will also mean ditching the arrogant Burkean principle that MPs should never sacrifice their own "judgement" to the opinions of the voters. This is not the 1770s: the British people are educated, well-informed and sensible and they want to have an impact on what is done in their name.

The big mistake will be to think this course of action can be avoided if the vote is 'No'. Even if the margin is wider than the latest polls show, millions will still have voted against Westminster. The referendum itself will still have showed that politics can be important and engaging for the many.

Most importantly, the wider anger and distaste for Westminster politics across the whole of the UK, of which the referendum is an expression, will not have disappeared. Maybe it won't be 18th September that finally breaks the dam but, if not, it will be something else sooner or later. Our younger political leaders have the opportunity now to get ahead of the curve.


Adam Lent can be found on Twitter here. The Unbound crowd-funding page for his book is here. It's called Small is Powerful: why the era of big government, big business and big culture is over (and why it's a good thing).




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