Ed Miliband: coherent and together but still not yet looking the part | Jonathan Freedland

The Labour leader delivered a clear enough message. The missing element may relate to the messenger himself

Politics is a cruel business. If a party leader offers a series of individual policies, the critics howl that hes serving up a laundry list, lacking any overarching narrative. But provide an overarching narrative, as Ed Miliband did in Manchester on Tuesday, and the natterers in the stalls yawn, complaining that what they really wanted was a policy firework, a gamechanger like last years promise to cap energy bills. Pledge instant change and theyll slam you for being unrealistic. But set out a 10-year programme and theyll moan that the horizon is so faraway, youll never be held to account if you fail to reach it.

Such was the plight of the Labour leader after he addressed his conference for a script-free, memorized 65 minutes. He certainly had a coherent motif. Borrowing the name of the campaign that thwarted a Scottish breakaway, he insisted that Britain was better together, casting the Conservatives as the party of youre on your own.

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Scotland started a glorious revolution. Dont let Westminster snuff it out | Jonathan Freedland

The movement for devolution must not be reduced to a party political squabble or an anoraks debate

The state of our union is strong. Those are the words uttered with ritual regularity by a US president delivering his annual address to the nation. What, though, is the state of our union, nearly a century older than the Americans and questioned this week as never before? You could say it has emerged from yesterdays vote in Scotland with its strength renewed, reaffirmed not by the whisker foreseen by the closing opinion polls but by an unarguable 10-point margin. Whats more, after weeks of speculation over the future of David Cameron, it was the advocate of independence, Alex Salmond, who resigned today. Earlier, one of his lieutenants had admitted that independence would now be shelved for a generation.

But the relief of unionists, like the heartbreak of yes campaigners, should be tempered. For there is another way of looking at the verdict that came as Thursday night turned into Friday morning. Independence used to command the support of a stubborn third of Scots, and no more. Yet yesterday 45% voted to repudiate British sovereignty, to end this arrangement once and for all. When close to half the population of a nation inside a union wants to break away, the state of that union is not strong. It is fragile.

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After Scotland votes, keeping Britain in Europe will be a whole lot harder | Jonathan Freedland

Whatever the result, Thursdays referendum has rewritten the political rulebook. What used to work no longer does

Nigel Farage was in Glasgow today, about as welcome a sight for no campaigners as the 10,000 members of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland, who are due to march in Edinburgh tomorrow. If youd asked Alex Salmond to name the image of the United Kingdom hed most like to stick in the minds of wavering Scottish voters in the final days before Thursdays independence vote, he might have named either Ukip or the Orangemen. Hed surely not have pushed his luck by suggesting both within 24 hours of each other.

But while the loyalist parade will be steeped in history and the past especially as the marchers will now be remembering one of Orangeisms giants, Ian Paisley the Ukip event is a harbinger of the future. For whatever the result in Scotland, the referendum there offers a foretaste of the ballot that could be coming to whatever remains of the United Kingdom in 2017: the Tories promised plebiscite asking whether we stay in or get out of the European Union.

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If Britain loses Scotland it will feel like an amputation | Jonathan Freedland

I understand the lure of independence, but the prospect fills me with sadness for the country that would be left behind

Shortly after midnight, an email arrives. From a leading light of the campaign for Scottish independence, one who six months ago dreamed of nothing better than a decent showing for yes and an honourable defeat. It says simply: This just might be happening. That message came on a fevered night when political chatter centred on a rumoured poll showing a small lead for yes, perhaps one of several such polls coming on Sunday. If that happens, says one Edinburgh sage not prone to hyperbole, it will set the forest on fire.

The pro-union camp can smell the smoke. It has seen the reports of midnight queues at council offices, as never-before voters demand they be registered in time to have their say on 18 September. They can see the blue and white placards and badges proliferating on every surface, they hear the talk of record-breaking turnout and they fear the energy, the momentum, is for yes.

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