Scotland/UK: Scots reject independence after huge turnout in referendum
- Credit: PA
Voters in Scotland have rejected independence in the referendum on the country’s future.
Alex Salmond’s dream of independence has been shattered after Scotland voted to stay part of the United Kingdom.
Despite winning a majority of votes in some areas – including the nation’s largest city Glasgow – the Yes campaign failed to secure enough support to win the historic referendum.
Mr Salmond conceded defeat in his fight for Scottish independence, after Scots voted by a margin of around 55%-45% to stay part of the United Kingdom.
The result was welcomed by Prime Minister David Cameron, who said he would honour the pledge to increase powers for the Scottish Parliament – but also said there needed to be extra safeguards for English voters.
The Scottish National Party First Minister said he accepted “the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland” and called on the leaders of the three main pro-Union parties to live up to promises of further devolution they made during the referendum campaign.
Despite winning a majority of votes in some areas – including the nation’s largest city Glasgow – the Yes campaign failed to secure enough support to win the historic referendum, failing to take key targets like Clackmannanshire and the Western Isles and falling well behind in the capital Edinburgh.
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After a night of drama, the result became a mathematical certainty shortly after 6am, as the returning officer in Fife announced a comfortable majority for No in the county.
Mr Salmond’s deputy Nicola Sturgeon had already conceded defeat with a handful of results still to be declared, telling the BBC she felt a “real sense of disappointment that we have fallen narrowly short of securing a Yes vote”.
The First Minister – whose failure to attend his local count in Aberdeenshire led to early speculation that Yes Scotland was heading for defeat – accepted in a speech at 6.15am before a One Scotland banner in Edinburgh that the country did not want independence “at this stage”.
He said: “It is important to say that our referendum was an agreed and consented process and Scotland has by a majority decided not at this stage to become an independent country.
“I accept that verdict of the people and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland.”
In an early-morning phone call, Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, the leader of the cross-party Better Together campaign, to congratulate him on “a well-fought campaign”.
The PM is due to make a televised address to the nation this morning in which he is expected to set out plans for further devolution to Scotland as well as a “rebalancing” of the representation of the four nations of the UK.
Edinburgh, which includes the parliamentary seat of Better Together leader Alastair Darling, voted 60-40 to stay in the UK – as did the Aberdeenshire power base of Mr Salmond.
Mr Darling said Scotland had chosen “positive change, rather than needless separation”.
Speaking before a banner reading “Love Scotland, Vote No” in Glasgow, the Better Together leader said: “Today is a momentous result for Scotland and also for the United Kingdom as a whole.
“By confirming our place within the United Kingdom, we have reaffirmed all that we have in common and the bonds that tie us together. Let them never be broken.”
Mr Darling said all parties that had made “shared commitments to change” must now work to put those promises into action both north and south of the border.
And he told No campaigners - who had never matched Yes Scotland in terms of their visible presence on the streets and in social media: “You represent the majority of opinion and your voices have been heard. We’ve taken on the argument and we’ve won. The silent have spoken.”
To loud cheers from supporters, Mr Darling concluded: “The vote is over and the Scottish people have now delivered their verdict. We have taken a decision for progress and change for Scotland within the United Kingdom. Come on Scotland, let’s get on with it together.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “I’ve spoken to Alistair Darling - and congratulated him on a well-fought campaign.”
There were also wins for Yes in three of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas - Dundee, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire.
While there was a comfortable majority in Dundee, the turnout in the city was 78.8% - lower than many other parts of Scotland, indicating that the Yes campaign had not managed to get voters out in sufficient numbers.
The turnout in Glasgow was even lower at 75%, with 194,779 Yes votes (53.49%) and 169,347 No votes (46.51%).
At the same time, nationalists conceded defeat in Alex Salmond’s Aberdeenshire constituency.
SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said: “At the end of the day, you always prefer to win but we always knew the size of the mountain we had to climb in Aberdeenshire.
“The challenge now bluntly, in Aberdeenshire and elsewhere, is for those who’ve won the referendum to deliver on the promises that they made to the people of Scotland.”
Eilidh Whiteford, SNP MP for Banff & Buchan, said: “Expectations in Aberdeenshire were never going to be that stellar. We always realised that if you win Aberdeenshire, you’re going to win everywhere.”
SNP leader Mr Salmond had been expected to make an appearance at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) but instead went directly to Edinburgh from his home in Strichen.
Sir Malcolm Bruce, Liberal Democrat MP for Gordon, said: “The point about this area is that it’s Alex Salmond’s backyard and his basic proposition has been overwhelmingly rejected here in Aberdeenshire, which I think will have implications.”
On the First Minister’s decision not to appear at the AECC count, Sir Malcolm said: “He only likes to come for acclamation, he doesn’t like to come and commiserate with his troops. I think good leaders should be with their troops whether they win or lose but he only wants to be the centre of attention.
“He was coming here until he got first indication that it wasn’t going well and he immediately aborted it.”
As the early results came in, a senior member of the Westminster Government declared that he believed the United Kingdom was “safe”.
Prime Minister David Cameron is due to make a live TV address to the nation from 10 Downing Street, which is expected to set out not only proposals to devolve more powers to the Scottish Parliament, but also significant changes to the constitutional settlement for other parts of the country.
Conservative Chief Whip Michael Gove, a close ally of the Prime Minister, indicated that this could involve reforms to ensure only English MPs can vote on English issues at Westminster.
Asked if he thought Scotland had voted to remain in the UK, Mr Gove told Sky News: “It does look as though - and I’m keeping every limb crossed - the United Kingdom will be safe.”
Mr Gove said Mr Cameron was “anxious to ensure that, after this referendum campaign, we can bring the United Kingdom together”.
After joining Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg to promise further devolution to Holyrood if Scots voted No, the Prime Minister is facing pressure from MPs south of the border for a similar extension of powers to the English regions, or even the creation of an English Parliament.
Mr Gove said Mr Cameron’s statement would recognise “that Scotland needs enhanced devolution... (and that) it’s also important to recognise that the rest of the United Kingdom needs to have its position enhanced as well, in Northern Ireland, in Wales and, of course, in England”.
He added: “We need to look again at the arrangements which look after the people who live in the majority of the United Kingdom and I think the Prime Minister in particular will be spelling out some ways forward which will allow Westminster to change how it operates in order to ensure that the interests of English voters are effectively protected - indeed enhanced.”
Blair McDougall, director of the Better Together campaign, said: “We think there will be a clear No vote tonight. I think the results we have seen now from places like Clackmannanshire – which is an SNP stronghold – are encouraging.”
The historic referendum looked set to break records for turnout, with figures as high as 91% in East Dunbartonshire, 90.4% in East Renfrewshire and 90.1% in Stirling.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said whatever the result, politics in Scotland would not be the same: “The status quo has been thoroughly smashed.”
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, one of the most senior Liberal Democrat ministers in the coalition Government, told Sky News: “It does look like we have secured a No vote and that is clearly very welcome.
“It is also important to say a No vote is a mandate for change in Scotland, it’s a mandate for the strong proposals on more powers for the Scottish Parliament we have been setting out in this campaign.”
SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon said: : “I think there are very, very strong messages for the political class in Scotland and messages we need to heed.
“This campaign has been a joy to be part of, it’s quite unlike anything I’ve ever been part of in my life before.
“If there is not a Yes vote tonight, I am deeply disappointed. As have thousands and thousands of others, I have given my heart and soul to this campaign but what has been amazing are the number of people who have never been involved in politics before, who have never campaigned as part of a political movement before, who have got involved.
“We must harness that, we must build on that. It’s one aspect that leads me to say this country will never be the same.
“I’m disappointed if we don’t come out of this evening with a Yes vote, I’m not trying to spin my way out of that... I’ll be deeply disappointed personally as well as politically but I can’t deny the fact I am also exhilarated by this campaign.”
The pound has risen sharply and the FTSE 100 Index is expected to follow suit in a relief rally for markets after Scotland’s rejection of independence.
Sterling climbed by almost 1% overnight to as high as 1.65 against the US dollar as traders reacted to the first poll results showing support for the No campaign.
The FTSE 100 Index is expected to open up by more than 80 points when trading on the London Stock Exchange starts at 8am. The pound and stocks with Scottish links have been volatile in recent days after an opinion poll pointed to a surge in support for the independence campaign.
The pound slumped to a 10-month low at just above 1.60 two weeks ago amid fears about the impact that a Yes vote would have on economic stability.
IG’s chief market strategist Brenda Kelly said today: “We have seen the pound breach 1.65 against the dollar and a strong start to the FTSE is expected, but the current movements are nothing compared to what may have come to pass had Scotland voted ‘Yes’.”
Banks such as RBS and Lloyds, as well as big Scottish firms Standard Life, Aberdeen Asset Management and Weir Group will be closely watched in the FTSE 100 Index.
Ms Kelly added: “Investors in these firms will be relieved that management will be able to devote their time to business performance, rather than fretting about contract changes or headquarters moves.
“Meanwhile, the capital flight from the pound and gilts should see a reversal too, thanks to the decision of Scotland to remain with the 307-year old union.
“There is still uncertainty, primarily over the new powers to be allotted to the Scottish Parliament and the potential changes to voting on English issues, but these are of importance primarily to politicians and less so to markets.”