‘If the exit poll is right’ – until we get some more results, these six words should be foremost in our minds. But if it is right, the political contrast between England and Scotland will be almost complete.

England would be even bluer than in 2010 and mainland Scotland an unbroken field of SNP yellow. Furthermore, the Conservative-dominated government in London will have been swept back to power on a tide of English resistance to SNP influence.

With 50 plus SNP MPs arriving in Westminster, the fight to preserve the Union will enter a new and dangerous phase. Unlike the 2010-15 Coalition, it’s possible that the new government will lack the support of a single Scottish MP.

The predicted crisis of legitimacy may not materialise in the rest of the UK, but north of the border it will be a different matter. The talk won’t be of a ‘coup’, but of an ‘occupation’.

To prevent the strain on the Union from reaching breaking point, David Cameron needs to make another big, open and comprehensive offer. Though the SNP promised to lock the Tories out of Downing Street, Cameron should extend an early invitation to the SNP leadership to sit down and talk about a fully federal United Kingdom.

Forget the half-measures of the previous parliament – to save Union we must accommodate its increasing diversity.

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