What Is Next for Scotland After the Referendum?

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  The Union Flag flies above a gift shop in central Edinburgh on September 19, 2014 in Edi
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: The Union Flag flies above a gift shop in central Edinburgh on September 19, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The majority of Scottish people have today voted 'No' in the referendum and Scotland will remain within the historic union of countries that make up the United Kingdom. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

No matter what way you look at it, the result of the Scottish referendum, held after years of debate; almost two years of increasingly intense campaigning and interest from all over the world, seems conclusive.

Although more than 45 out of every 100 people here in Scotland will be disappointed in the choice the majority of their fellow citizens have made to stay within the United Kingdom, there was a clear 10-point majority against separation and all the parties involved have committed to accept the majority verdict.

I suspect that for the vast majority of voters, and despite enormous interest and engagement, there will be a lot of people here relieved that the almost continuous print and broadcast media coverage of 'IndyRef' will now wind down.

Wind down that is, but not disappear, because for almost everybody in Scotland this is seen as not the end of the matter; the key question is, "What now?"

We'll all want answers to that question because the very late intervention from the three UK party leaders promising 'more powers' for Scotland clearly had impact on shifting votes and was described by them as a 'vow' to introduce further change . At the Centre for Scottish Public Policy, with a strictly neutral stance on Yes/No we have discussed with voters from both camps the clear expectation that those leaders now have to follow words with actions.

The test will not just be for Scotland, as such change has implications for all four national jurisdictions of the United Kingdom, widely mismatched as they are in size and with already differentiated powers and responsibilities.

It might seem a little left field, but I think we can use the often derided 'known ...knowns ...known unknowns...' comment from Donald Rumsfeld to help us think our way through some of the key issues that will follow this vote.

The 'known known' that tops the list is the three UK party leaders' joint commitment to propose further changes for the governance of Scotland within the United Kingdom. They may not agree on what these changes might be, in some elements they may not yet know, but they do have to produce.

The 'known unknown 'blurry possibilities of things to come has two different but fascinating dimensions. Firstly the possible constitutional arrangements that accommodate voters in England, where there is clearly a growing sense of envy/resentment about arrangements that apply in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales but are not present in England.

The other dramatically different and possibly very significant matter is the dramatic increase in voter registration and then voting that we have seen. Registration of 97 percent eligible citizens and turnouts in the mid to high 80 percent is a high voting tide we have never seen before in any part of the UK, nor been close to in 60+ years. Will it last? Will it be similar in future referendums? In elections for all tiers of government ? Or is this tidal surge of interest and involvement like Obama 1 and 2, with our equivalent of the 'midterms ' likely to see a wash back?

Naturally the most hard to assess possibilities are Rumsfeld's famous 'unknown -- unknowns'... and, as he pointed out, these can often have the greatest impact on events. I can't and won't predict, but a few possibilities are perhaps worth thinking about.

First, in future both UK and the three currently devolved governments will start to think about the implications of some form of 'quasi federalism' or independence when they engage in long term planning.

Businesses and even charities that I have spoken to certainly will do this. In everything from domiciling of corporate entities to branding, to business models, planners and decision makers will now think more and more about operating in linked but different countries.

And when we come to the inevitable and probably extended postmortems we might reflect on how the often criticized British constitution -- '...not worth the paper it is not written on...' as it is often derisively described, allowed this ground-breaking vote to happen in a peaceful, open and democratic manner.

Because if a written constitution is introduced it must be because of a general wish to entrench certain rights, duties and legal provisions; entrenchment means more complex and prescribed procedures for change such as a super-majority or double lock voting of some kind.

The peaceful and universally accepted vote of yesterday's was agreed through discussion and negotiation between two government leaders, David Cameron and Alex Salmond; not on the casting vote of a group of judges sitting in splendid isolation. Maybe an unwritten constitution has some advantages after all.