The Tories' worry is that Glasgow East has proven that Alex Salmond knows exactly what he's doing in delaying the independence referendum until after the next General Election. They have looked at the by-election results and have come to two conclusions:
1. They will win the next general election with a comfortable majority, and
2. Scottish voters now see the SNP as the alternative to Labour, leaving the Tories with only a couple of seats up north
The Tories know damn well what the result of that will be. Alex Salmond will have a field day (or, to be more specific, a field year!) and will not miss a single opportunity to decry the Tory government's lack of mandate in Scotland. While this may or may not result in a yes vote for independent it would undoubtedly make David Cameron's first year in office very very hard.
The Herald states that:
It would benefit the Conservative Party on both sides of the border if David Cameron pre-empted this by having informal, exploratory talks with First Minister Salmond about granting far more powers, which must include taxation to the Scottish Government, while making it clear that unless a referendum decided otherwise, this would occur within the Union.
But the London Daily Mail goes further, saying that such talks are already ongoing:
That is why, I can reveal, allies of Cameron have entered into informal talks with the SNP over recent months. Their objective is to save the union by working out a new kind of constitutional settlement for Scotland...An incoming Tory administration would need to meet Alex Salmond's demands that the Scottish Parliament should have massive new powers over taxation and public spending. In domestic terms, a Scottish administration would be entirely self-governing and have complete command over economic policy. And yet the union could be maintained through the retention of shared armed forces, and foreign policy, and the monarchy.
Is this the start of a Federal UK instead of full blow independence? And where does it leave Wales?