The most obvious fact that signals the continuation of this debate is that since the day of the referendum SNP membership has soared, reaching 47,746 on Tuesday 23rd September from 25,642 (The Herald) – a staggering increase of more than 22,000 members in just five days. This has made the SNP the UK's third largest party, with Lib Dem membership expected to only hit 44,000 by April and UKIP having membership of 38,124 (as of May 2014). Moreover, the Scottish Green Party, who played a key role in the Yes campaign, has seen an increase of more than 3000 members since the referendum (the Guardian). Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the Scottish Greens and one of the party's MSPs told the Guardian that the tripling of membership was proof that the surge in political engagement by voters was serious. This argument was echoed by SNP business convenor Derek Mackay who said that the referendum was a “triumph of democracy” and that the independence movement showed “no signs of stopping”.
Alex Salmond has admitted that the Yes campaign lost the referendum, but remained defiant at the claims from Westminster that the independence debate has been resolved. In response to Salmond's claims that independence has potential to be achieved via a longer, parliamentary process, former Chancellor and Better Together campaign leader Alistair Darling said to Salmond “you lost the argument, you lost the referendum, you've lost office and now you've lost the plot”. However the figures of the vote and events during and after the campaigns have showed otherwise: 44.7% of Scottish voters decided they wanted Scotland to leave the Union – that is a large number of Britons that can't go ignored as the vote wasn't to remove a government in Westminster, it was to separate entirely from the UK and establish a fully sovereign government in Holyrood. Moreover, although Alex Salmond has resigned membership of the SNP continues to surge, indicating that independence isn't just about following Salmond's charisma and political savvy, but an honest belief in the abilities of the SNP to govern Scotland. Although Alistair Darling would be right in saying that Salmond lost the referendum and office, the First Minister has not lost the argument or the plot as there remains in Scotland an apatite for the continuation of the independence debate.
The route of much Scottish discontent lies within the Westminster corridors of power, and it is the political elites of the big three parties that will now witness the continuation of Scottish nationalism. The day after the referendum Cameron delivered a victory speech from outside number 10, declaring a “decisive” win over the Yes campaign. The Prime Minister promised devolution across the whole of the UK, with further Scottish devolution running at the same pace as English devolution and this process will not get going until after the General Election in May next year. In response to this, many No voters have expressed their anger and disappointment at the Prime Minister as many voted No based on the promises of more devolution to Holyrood immediately after the referendum – while many in Westminster argue that no such promises were made, in the final weeks the Better Together campaign wooed undeceive voters by 'hinting' of devolution straight after the referendum; many Scots who decided to give the Union another chance feel misled and are perhaps beginning to flirt with the idea of a Scotland free from the Westminster parties.
Furthermore, the eyes of no voters are now turning to Ed Miliband and the Labour party, after all Labour were the party to deliver devolution to Scotland back in 1998. But Labour needs to work hard, not just to deliver the hopes and promises of No voters but also to win back Yes voters. Labour's shadow Scottish secretary Margaret Curran plans to tour the ten constituencies that had the highest Yes vote in an attempt to win back the votes that are going to the Scottish nationalists. The Guardian reported that Glasgow is an important example to Labour: even though Glasgow had the lowest turn out at 75%, Glasgow City Council has released polling figures for all eight Holyrood constituencies and the results show that the Better Together campaign lost in each one. Not only does this show the support for independence among Scotland's working class, but also provides more evidence that even in Scotland Labour is no longer the party of working people. Labour's image is at stake and even though Miliband talks of devolution after May 2015 (as Labour lack initiation power in opposition), the people of Scotland will find it hard to find trust in a party which appears to be drifting evermore away from the left and away from the interests of the Scottish people.
The independence debate has characterised Scottish politics since the SNP gained a majority in Holyrood back in 2007 however the 2014 independence referendum is certainly not the end and appears to be far more the beginning of a much longer period in Scottish politics. Even though the referendum is over, the SNP are more popular than ever and despite Alex Salmond's resignation the party will continue to be a loud voice in UK politics, let alone Scottish politics. While Westminster tries to recover from months of nervous anticipation of the referendum result, the people of Scotland will be expecting further devolution very soon and delays to this process (which have already begun to take affect) will only fuel Scottish nationalism further and may well prove Alex Salmond right when he refers to Scottish independence as an unstoppable process.