The backbench and frontbench rebellion against David Cameron's plans to hand Scotland more power, and possibly more money from British taxpayers, has already begun and could end in tears for the Prime Minister if Scotland votes for independence.
If Scotland votes to go it alone, Mr. Cameron might be seen as the prime minister who oversaw the destruction of the 307-year-old union between Scotland and England and would inevitably face calls for his head. London Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell is one parliamentarian who hinted that Mr. Cameron might have to go if Scotland bolts.
"I hope Scots vote to stay," he told the Financial Times this week. "If it goes wrong, the Prime Minister will have to decide what the honourable thing is to do."
But even if the unionists squeak out a No vote, Mr. Cameron will come under pressure. That's because the Tories are hugely unpopular in Scotland – the Labour Party controls most of the Scottish seats at Westminster – and would face eradication in Scotland in the May, 2015, general election. There are already complaints within the Conservative party that the government's plan to shower Scotland with gifts should it vote "No" would be excessive and unwarranted.
On Thursday, Claire Perry, the Conservative rail minister, warned against "promises of financial party bags" for Scotland. All three main Westminster parties – the Conservatives; their coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, and Labour – have promised to give Scotland more autonomy if it votes to stay in the union. The promises would see the current level of funding for Scotland maintained as well, handing it more power to raise local taxes (known as tax devolution).
Writing in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald, Ms. Perry warned against treating Scotland with "a whole raft of goodies" which would be "paid for by us south of the border to try and appease the 'Yes' voters."
Funding for Scotland has always been a sore spot among some MPs and many residents of England. The so-called Barnett formula sees each Scot receive a yearly average of £1,623 ($2,918) more in public funding than their English counterparts. Scotland also gets more than Wales, which is poorer than Scotland.
Conservative MP James Gray joined Ms. Perry's call to avoid showering Scotland with taxpayers' money. "Talk about feeding an addiction," he said. "The more you give them, the more they want, and we would be back with calls for independence within a decade or sooner. For too long, the rights of 55 million English have been subordinated to the shouting of 4.5 million Scots."
The rebellion against the government's plans to reward Scotland if a majority vote "No" in the referendum could easily turn into an outright crisis for all the main Westminster parties if the vote goes the other way and Scotland bolts from the union. For weeks, there have been mutterings that Mr. Cameron could not survive a Yes vote, though he has insisted he would not step down if Scotland does vote "Yes."
He argues that the vote is a referendum on Scottish independence, not a referendum on his leadership or that of Alex Salmond, Leader of the Scottish National Party. "My name is not on the ballot paper," Mr. Cameron said earlier this week.
Still, there is little doubt that a Yes vote could trigger a political earthquake in Britain. After losing Scotland, the angriest Tory backbenchers would launch a dump-Cameron campaign and insist on a leadership contest; the rebels would need only 46 signatures from colleagues to do so.
If that were to happen, the Tory party conference on Sept. 28 in Birmingham could turn into competition for a new leader. An early favourite would no doubt be London Mayor Boris Johnson, who is a former Conservative MP who doesn't disguise his national ambitions. Earlier this month, he announced that he would be the Conservative Party candidate for the Uxbridge riding in the 2015 general election.
But it is Labour that stands to lose the most if Scotland vanishes from the U.K. Labour holds 41 of 59 seats in Scotland. Were Scotland to leave, those seats would disappear. In an interview on Thursday, Tory MP Bill Cash said a Yes vote would "pave the way for a Conservative government" in the 2015 election.
But he had a big caveat: The 2015 election would be thrown into doubt if Scotland leaves, for the simple reason that an independent Scotland would not be sending MPs to Westminster. Scottish independence, he said "could postpone the election and fling everything into a constitutional crisis."