So, it’s a no. After all the debate, the think tank papers and economic modelling; after the panic, the last-minute promises; after the vitriol, the punches, the trolling… the outcome of the Scottish referendum is at last clear. The union is in tact.

As I reflect on the campaign, what’s been surprising, and disappointing, is how little food and drink has featured in the referendum.

Not for want of trying on our part, I assure you. In what has proved a highly divisive debate, the food and drink industry understandably did its best to keep out of it for fear of alienating customers.

While key Scottish food & drink suppliers were among the 130 companies that pledged their opposition to independence in August, none was prepared to publicly discuss the matter further. Asda CEO Andy Clarke, who had in November warned of higher food prices in the event of independence, remained a lone voice among retailers for months on end.

As I reflect on the campaign, what’s been surprising, and disappointing, is how little food and drink has featured in the referendum.

But belatedly - and by that I mean last week - food and drink became THE story of the referendum. And I say thank goodness for that.

Perhaps it was only a matter of time before the supermarkets got dragged into the debate. I’m not so sure. As Clarke was bravely reiterating his warning in a press statement, a meeting with retail bosses at 10 Downing Street on an unrelated matter (which Clarke was not attending) was used as a photo op by David Cameron to whip up industry support. A tweet we sent featuring the photo was retweeted 700 times. And it’s surely no coincidence that Justin King, Marc Bolland, Sir Charlie Mayfield and Malcolm Walker all suddenly chimed in - with the latter admitting he would panic in the event of a Yes vote.

Alex Salmond angrily branded the photoshoot a scare tactic. But food and drink should always have been at the heart of the Scottish independence debate. It’s not just that the industry is a major employer in Scotland, or the fact Scotland is home to some of the most iconic food and drink brands and a big contributor to UK food exports - though as it happens, whisky exports are falling due to lower consumption in Asia (p4).

It’s more important than that. More important even than the debate about the level of oil reserves from the North Sea. Regardless of the choice voters make, it’s vital they have been made aware of the potential impact on their basic costs of living - ie food and drink. And I fancy industry leaders to have had a better gauge of the likely cost of food and drink in Scotland than any politician.

So where does the food and drink industry go from here? On one level, it’s business as usual (though the same cannot be said politically). But it’s also clear that bridges will need to be built.

Nor should we expect food and drink to slip down the political agenda outside Scotland. With the political conference season kicking off on Monday, food and drink leaders must seize the opportunity to get back on the front foot, ensuring food & drink is right at the centre of all party considerations.

The Grocer certainly intends to do its bit, with managing editor Julia Glotz chairing a food policy debate with the NFU at the Labour Party Conference on Monday 22 September.

A united industry is also needed to tackle other political issues. A key one is business rates. This has been another divisive issue, with supermarket bosses focusing their ire on online retailers. So it was good to see retailers and suppliers working together. And rather than seeking to level the playing field with online operations, the focus has switched to targeting the non-contribution of banks and energy companies.

Here is an example of the industry’s leading voices coming together to achieve change. We can expect equal pressure to come from politicians on other issues. In the build-up to the general election - and beyond - we will need to be united more than ever. As an industry, at the very least.