We are making a decision today that will last for three years. Pity the voters of Scotland. They faced a decision that will stand to all intents and purposes forever.
If they said yes to independence, they were told, there would be no going back. If they said no, there might be another referendum down the line, just as there turned out to be after their referendums of 1979 and 1997, but independence advocates told them not to count on it. Both sides wanted the Scots to decide this time once and for all.
Imagine it. The nearest equivalent would be New Zealand given a referendum on joining Australia. Imagine the history that would weigh on us, and the fate of future generations. Yet it would be easier to merge with a larger nation than to leave one, especially one you have been part of for longer than New Zealand has existed.
Scotland's referendum has provided a lesson on what an independent state really is. Scots who took the decision seriously had to look past the flags and frivolity of nationalism and think about constitutions, economics, taxes and currencies. The task of writing a constitution would be horrendous.
Scotland and England came together as the United Kingdom precisely as kings were shedding power to parliaments. The UK became a constitutional monarchy with Parliament and government powers resolved by custom, rather than prescribed in writing.
Today's Scottish nationalists wanted to continue sharing a monarchy with England but also wanted to declare that sovereignty in Scotland resides in its people. That required a written constitution, and when you write a constitution in the 21st century you face social aspirations hardly imagined by the 18th-century civil libertarians who wrote them for the new American and French republics.
A white paper from Scotland's nationalist government suggested a constitution should guarantee, among other things,a minimum standard of living, freedom from discrimination, sustainable use of resources, a ban on nuclear weapons, rights to healthcare, welfare and pensions, children's rights and a youth guarantee of employment, education or training.
Stephen Tierney, professor of constitutional theory at the University of Edinburgh, warned that "the people" tend not to attend conventions that write constitutions. "The most vocal elements of civil society can seize the opportunity to embed particular policy preferences," he wrote in a contribution to an online book, Scotland's Decision.
"It seems very questionable that the first generation of post-independent Scots should take upon themselves the power to crystallise a broad range of current policy preferences as constitutional principles.... "People who then criticise policies dressed up as constitutional principles can find themselves accused of disloyalty to the country, which is deeply unhealthy for democracy."
Scotland has been blessed with clear thinkers, including the "father of economics" Adam Smith, so it was strange today's nationalists were blind to the damage they would do to an independent economy if they kept the pound.
Money is a token of the value of a sovereign state, except for the euro which is not working well precisely because Europe is not (yet) a single state. Strong currencies tend to be those that have their value maintained by central banks, who can use the currency's base interest rate to prevent inflation.
Scotland is not a basket case. Its economic growth has been close to the UK's overall. But it is an economy of 5.3 million people and it would have retained the currency of an economy of 63 million, minus Scotland. The value of the pound, and interest rates set by the Bank of England, would reflect the fortunes of the much larger economy.
So long as Scotland is in the same taxation pool as England it doesn't matter if the pound reflects the strength of London's financial services rather than industry in the regions. Everyone receives the same public services and entitlements, and regions can be compensated with subsidies and grants. All of those would disappear with independence.
Nationalists wanted to keep the pound because 70 per cent of Scotland's exports go to the rest of the UK and they wanted to avoid an exchange cost. But if the pound moved out of sync with Scotland's economy, the social costs could exceed an exchange rate.
It took bravery to consider leaving an economy as large and wealthy as Britain's. But in its failure to propose a sovereign currency, the campaign for Scotland's independence was not brave enough.