Scotland's long-awaited referendum on independence from the United Kingdom ended on Thursday night in a defeat for secessionists, when 55% of voters said 'no' to independence.   Now that Scotland has voted by a narrow margin to remain in the UK, establishment figures are relieved that they have dodged Britain's biggest constitutional crisis in centuries.  But even though the 307-year-old union remains intact (for now), the political landscape has seen a tectonic shift overnight as the conversation has changed: has the time finally come to remake Britain into a federal state?   Only a week before the referendum the Yes camp enjoyed a sharp surge in polls that pushed the pro-independence vote from a fairly consistent 35% up to 51%.  Most commentators agree that this was less a sudden surge in patriotic mettle and more a reaction against the patronising negative campaigning of the 'Better Together' camp, which throughout the campaign enjoyed the overwhelming support of elites in Westminster, the media and the financial sector.   'Better Together' had by then been heavily satirised as 'Bitter Together' by the Yes camp, after various establishment warnings made in defence of the union came across more as threats.  Voters were told by business leaders, Westminster politicians and media commentators that an independent Scotland would not be allowed access to North Sea oil, that their economy would collapse and the beloved National Health Service (NHS) would become unaffordable, that future EU membership would be out of the question, that prices in stores north of the border would rise, and that they would not be allowed to keep the Pound Sterling.   Meanwhile complaints by the Yes campaign that there was a 'media stich-up' are not unfounded.  The No campaign had consistently favourable coverage on front pages and news websites, with for instance emotional appeals that the Queen would be upset by independence being printed on the front pages of two leading national daily papers on the same day.     Worst of all the BBC, whose habitual stance as Downing Street's willing mouthpiece the Columbus Free Press has covered in the past, was caught cutting footage from a TV interview with the Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond to make it look as if he declined to answer a question about a post-Yes Scottish economy.  In fact his economic plan was laid out in a six-minute answer whose existence the BBC lied about.   The Yes campaign's sharp climb in the polls - much of which still stuck even after the initial bounce had faded - was thus largely a signal of shared disgust at how an out-of-touch Westminster felt that its case was best made with the help of bullying and dishonesty.  The fact that the No campaign eventually won, then, is because there are (probably genuine) concerns about how well Scotland's economy would fare on its own.  It is not a vote of confidence for the union or the London elites that control it.   The historical context for this seething antipathy to London is rooted in the impact of Margaret Thatcher's government on Scotland's industry and social security since the 1980s.  Thatcher's radically right-wing economic policies famously destroyed working class communities in Scotland, privatizing entire industries and selling off the state's housing stock at knockdown prices to drive millions into the banks - without replacing them.  Furthermore Scotland suffered worse than many other regions from Thatcher's hated Poll Tax, the reactionary policy that led to her being ousted from government.   Scottish votes for Thatcher's Conservative Party began at 31% in 1979 when she first entered government, and ended at a miserable 25% by 1992.  When the Labour Party finally formed a government in 1997 under Tony Blair promising an end to Thatcher's disastrous economic policies, it quickly became clear that the hope and change rhetoric was a spectacular deception as Blair's government did nothing to reverse the central tenets of Thatcherism or repair its devastation.   In other words, Scotland never voted for the economic pain that has been imposed on it for the past 30 years.  Having its social security taken apart and a third of its heavy industry cut between 1976 and 1987 without ever choosing to do so has meant that for decades Scotland has been treated more like an occupied colonial territory than a democratic partner.   Tony Blair's culpability in all this is not simply that he turned the Labour Party into 'New Labour', a Thatcher karaoke act that prefers to grovel to financiers and capitalists instead of remembering its trade union roots and socialist history.  It was also that Blair created a short-sighted and unfair constitutional arrangement in Scotland.   Scotland had for decades been a Labour heartland, so the rise in separatist sentiment by the time Blair entered office was a threat to any future Labour majority.  The solution was to create the Scottish Parliament, devolving certain political and budgetary powers to Scotland so that at last there could be Scottish votes for Scottish issues - in itself an entirely noble aim.  What made this hasty arrangement a mess, however, was firstly that it was only Scotland that was given this precise form of devolved regional democracy, not Wales (who have a weaker regional assembly), England or Northern Ireland; and secondly that Scottish Members of Parliament could vote on legislation in Westminster that only applied in England, while English MPs had no such control over affairs in Scotland.  This constitutional error is referred to as the West Lothian Question.   The fact that Labour supported the union throughout the independence campaign for few other reasons than that they need Scottish votes to subsidize their weak base in England suggests a profound contempt for democracy.  The way Labour rushed Scottish devolution into existence to shore up their base at the expense of English and Welsh democracy demonstrates that this attitude has been around for some time.  Even now, Labour's response to David Cameron's call for "English votes for English laws" has been the tepid and evasive statement that there should not be two classes of MPs - possibly because it could mean a Labour government without a strong majority would be unable to pass large amounts of legislation in England.   One of the chief problems with the entire notion of Scottish independence, then, is that even as many progressives in England and Wales have supported it with the goodwill of wishing a neighbour the chance to form a truly democratic socialist state, the temptation to view Scotland freeing itself from England as a purely post-colonial struggle has left millions of voters elsewhere ignored.  By fetishizing the independence of one nation from another, it has become all too easy to forget that Westminster's cruelty towards industrial communities and cities throughout England and Wales has caused no less suffering elsewhere.   Yet after the Yes campaign's rapid poll boost in the final week of the campaign, the leaders of all three main parties in Westminster hurried north of the border and, in a state of panic, pledged more devolution of powers to Scotland if they voted to stay in the union.  The special treatment demonstrates yet again that the instinct of Westminster's elite is not to promote fairness and democracy for all but a nice stable market for their chums on City of London trading floors, for whom democracy is only a nuisance anyway.   That Scotland is historically a nation while Yorkshire is not has so far meant that Scotland has had vastly preferential treatment, despite the fact that the North of England felt the brunt of Thatcher's policies.  One need not search through old polling data to find out whether the North voted for the cruelty it received - just ask anyone from the North if the Tories were ever electable in that region.  The Labour MP John Mann, sensing a genuinely leftist argument for federalism might at last be on the table, tweeted on Friday "The West Dorset question.  Why should Southern Tories determine health, planning and education issues in the North?"   The Conservative Party's instinct to emphasize English votes for English laws, or national devolution, rather than place regional devolution at the heart of its rhetoric, suggests that it, too, has an overly London-centric view on how the country should be run.  If Conservatives are apparently more interested in an emergent English nationalism than regional autonomy, what is the agenda behind David Cameron's pledge on Friday to lead a "devolution revolution"?   Since Labour's record on devolution is poor and its moral authority on constitutional affairs is thus diminished, it seems likely that the Conservatives are better prepared to lead the conversation on devolution.  The prospect of a federal Britain could be truly exciting if it were in the right hands; but recent behaviour by the Conservatives regarding local democracy and giving power to the people does not inspire great confidence.     Since the Thatcher years, 'small state' rhetoric has been used to justify privatizations of public utilities and services, the promise of a "shareholder democracy" quickly becoming more shareholder than democracy as global banks, venture capitalists and foreign states bought up the vast majority of services that have been sold off.  Prices for all of these services have skyrocketed, while public control over them has been destroyed.     Most recently the Royal Mail was a bonanza for Conservative Party donors, who were given early access to reserve their shares and then sell them off a week later for a huge profit after its initial valuation by Goldman Sachs turned out to be a third of what it was worth.  Public hospitals meanwhile, saddled with debt thanks to Tony Blair's disastrous private finance initiative (a policy he learned from Thatcher), are suffering cuts and closures as value is sweated off of them by the financial firms who purchased the debt.   In terms of Tory treatment of local councils, meanwhile, the record is grim.  Since forming the government in 2010, they have been applying deep cuts to central state funding of local council budgets without giving councils the means to raise their own funds (for instance by replenishing England's direly lacking housing stock).  This has caused several local council leaders in their own party to speak out in disgust, particularly in rural areas where state infrastructure is crucial to the success of local businesses but has been cut by over 30%.   The future alternative for Conservative councils already has an outrider in the form of Barnet council, which has been radically restructured to turn every service into a microtransaction, and in which formerly council-run functions are now being run instead by "cheap and cheerful" (read: miserly) private contractors.  These contractors have made a fortune siphoning off the value of these services, leading to a dire lack of reinvestment in essential services, such as state housing and support for the elderly and disabled.   Barnet council has been referred to by Tory insiders as "EasyCouncil", a reference to the cheap airlines on which its model is based.  They are not shy about their main inspiration being RyanAir, an airliner which attempted to charge customers to use the toilets during flights before it was prevented by a court ruling.   Finally, Tory attitudes to devolution of powers were apparent in the aforementioned economic fearmongering of the No campaign, where City bosses and Westminster politicians were reading from an almost identical script about what would happen if Westminster lost control of Scotland.  Cameron's offer this week of heavy devolution to Scotland was something which many Scots had originally asked for on the referendum ballot - known as the 'devo max' option - but which Cameron refused to offer beforehand.   Considering this and the way the markets showed great uncertainty during the sudden Yes bounce, it is not out of the question to wonder if Cameron refused to offer devo max because he was aware before that the financial sector would accept no real challenge to its power.  His claims to wanting to give further economic to the region, therefore, should be treated with profound skepticism.   If the Conservative Party continues to lead the devolution argument, it will not bring any more control to regions and cities.  It will be used as a Trojan horse for further cuts and privatizations, whereby a reduction in the power of the central state will in truth be an increase in the power of the financial sector to continue profiting and powermongering from an austerity still promoted out of Westminster.  If their patterns of behaviour from recent years is any yardstick for what will happen in the future, it seems that the Tory plan is simply to push the state into places where it can be taken apart more easily, and give more power to multinational contractors and banks so that people's votes mean even less than they already do.   This does not mean that Britain should not become a federal state.  If done properly it could form a true rejuvenation of democracy.  If local councils were allowed to build housing, they could invest in better public services.  If hospital and school budgets were left truly in the hands of regional control, cities could set their own priorities rather than defer to the narrow wishes of bankers in London.  If energy was nationalised and control and ownership handed over to regional cooperatives, each town could invest in green energy and recycle the profits straight back into the local economy.     The London establishment has made it quite clear that it fears real democracy, that it fears real political engagement.  But although Scotland has passed up on this chance to break away from that establishment for now, the political landscape has changed for good, as people across the UK hunger once again for a real democracy.  We must not let Westminster and their cynical paymasters rob us of this chance.