EDINBURGH, Sept 19: Scottish voters have rejected independence, deciding to remain part of the United Kingdom after a historic referendum that shook the country to its core.
The decision prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to the British political establishment. Scots voted 55 per cent to 45 per cent against independence in a vote that saw an unprecedented turnout.
A majority of voters did not embrace Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond’s impassioned plea to launch a new state, choosing instead the security offered by remaining in the United Kingdom.
Salmond conceded defeat, saying “we know it is a majority for the No campaign” and called on Scots to accept the results of the vote. He said the voted “has been triumph for the democratic process.“
“If that is the result for the referendum then clearly I am deeply disappointed,” Scottish National Party (SNP) deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon told the broadcaster.
Votes cast for and against Scotland’s independence in a historic referendum were running virtually neck and neck, but leading “No“ campaigners had suggested that victory was in sight.
“No” supporters were confident of victory, however, and experts said it looked like the pro-union camp would clinch it. “The evidence that the ‘No’ side are going to win is beginning to stack up,” polling expert John Curtice from Strathclyde University had told the BBC. “But equally however we also are beginning to look at a ‘No’ success that is nothing like as substantial as they probably expected,” he said.
Millions of Scots had turned out on Thursday with queues snaking outside polling stations after a campaign that has sparked fevered debate across Scotland and is being closely watched around the world. Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, a “No” supporter, told AFP: “It’s early days but it’s looking fairly good.“ Michael Gove, Conservative former minister and confidant of Prime Minister David Cameron, told Sky News that “fingers crossed”, the union appeared safe.
“The result looks disappointing,” admitted Patrick Harvie, a member of the Scottish parliament for the Green Party and “Yes” campaigner.
“We are going to stay out till the result,” said Dylan McDonald, 17, one of Scotland’s 16- and 17-year-olds who have been able to vote in a referendum for the first time after the qualifying age was lowered. The historic decision gripped many Scots who previously took little interest in politics, igniting passions and raising the prospect of deep changes to the governance of the union no matter the result.
Cameron promised greater powers for Scotland’s parliament in a last-minute bid to convince voters to stay in the union, prompting politicians in his Conservative party to call for the same treatment for England. He will speak on the future of the United Kingdom as soon as the referendum outcome is issued, and if independence is rejected he is expected to announce plans to change the division of power in the highly-centralised union.]]>