So it was a No vote, but one that has had a distinctly unsettling effect on the political scene in Scotland, with many on the Yes side clearly believing that their time will come – though some appear to dismiss the majority vote remarkably glibly.
The melting pot that is now the devolution settlement, from which the Smith Commission has to try and draw a scheme that will command a broad consensus, is bound to have a knock-on effect for the rest of the UK. It is difficult, however, to identify a coherent solution to “English votes for English issues”, aka the West Lothian question, short of a formal federal structure, which does not seem likely to emerge. Perhaps we shall have to rely on that fine British invention, the constitutional convention, if any practice is to develop before then. Could the Speaker's office, for example, help to define when an issue is truly confined to England, given the many grey areas that have been identified?
Despite its political theme, the Society's Law in Scotland conference did not touch much on the UK situation, though as well as examining the situation now facing Lord Smith and his colleagues, it did look further afield to the EU, on which we may find ourselves facing another referendum before too long. With everything in such a state of flux at present, and limited time to delve into particular issues, the conference provided possible pointers to the future, rather than a blueperint. It is notable, however, how the Society has managed to position itself in recent times as a facilitator for debate on the whole constitution and devolution-related scene – a position the significance of which should not be underestimated.
As I said last month, life goes on for the practising lawyer, and no doubt many are now devoting more attention to the coming of the new land registration regime on 8 December. Our property round table discussion, which leads this month's issue, may provide some reassurance that solicitors will soon get used to the new practices, though that does not take away from the need to plan ahead – especially if, as is now known, Registers will be closed for the last two working days before the designated day. There is plenty of material now available, in the Journal and more especially on Registers' website, to help the process. Good luck with it.