Scots Vote "No" on Independence 09/19 06:36
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) -- Scottish voters have resoundingly 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 Britain's economic and political establishment,
including Prime Minister David Cameron, who faced calls for his resignation if
Scotland had broken away.
The vote on Thursday --- 55 percent against independence to 45 percent in
favor --- saw an unprecedented turnout of just under 85 percent.
"We have chosen unity over division," Alistair Darling, head of the No
campaign, said early Friday in Glasgow. "Today is a momentous day for Scotland
and the United Kingdom as a whole."
Independence leader Alex Salmond's impassioned plea to launch a new nation
fell short, with Scots choosing instead the security of remaining in union with
England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Still, the result establishes a whole new
political dynamic in the United Kingdom, with Cameron appearing outside No. 10
Downing Street to pledge more powers for regional governments.
Even in conceding, Salmond struck an upbeat tone.
"This has been a triumph for the democratic process and for participation in
politics," he said to cheering supporters.
The pound hit a two-year high against the euro and a two-week high against
the U.S. dollar as markets shrugged off recent anxiety about a possible vote
for independence. In early Asian trading, the pound jumped nearly 0.8 percent
to $1.6525 against the U.S. dollar before falling back slightly. Britain's main
stock index opened higher.
A much-relieved Cameron promised to live up to earlier promises to give
Scotland new powers on taxes, spending and welfare. He said the new plans will
be agreed upon by November, with draft legislation by January.
But he also said change was coming to other parts of the country amid the
"Just as the people of Scotland will have more power over their affairs, so
it follows that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland must have a
bigger say over theirs," Cameron said. "The rights of these voters need to be
respected, preserved and enhanced as well."
The No campaign won the capital city, Edinburgh, by a margin of 61 percent
to 38 percent and triumphed by 59 percent to 41 percent in Aberdeen, the
country's oil center. The Yes campaign won Glasgow, Scotland's biggest city,
but it was not enough.
As dawn broke to lead-gray skies over Scotland's largest city, the dream of
independence that had seemed so tantalizingly close evaporated in the soft
George Square, the rallying point for thousands of Yes supporters in the
final days of the campaign, was littered with placards and debris of a campaign
in which many had invested more than two years of their lives.
"I had never voted before or got involved with politics in any way but this
time I thought my vote would count for something," said truck driver Calum
Noble, 25, as his voice cracked with emotion. "I wanted a better country but
it's all been for nothing. I don't believe we will get any of the things the
London politicians promised."
But popular opinion on a leafy residential street in Edinburgh's west end
told a different tale. Young and old sat by their televisions waiting for news
in a half dozen homes. Nearly all said they had voted No.
"Just because I'm not out in the street in a kilt screaming how Scottish I
am, that doesn't mean I'm not a proud Scot. I am. And a proud Brit. That's the
point the Yes side doesn't respect," said Ger Robertson, 47, who chose instead
to celebrate Scotland's verdict in his living room with a dram of his favorite
Salmond had argued that Scots could go it alone because of its extensive oil
reserves and high levels of ingenuity and education. He said Scotland would
flourish alone, free of interference from any London-based government.
Many saw it as a "heads versus hearts" campaign, with cautious older Scots
concluding that independence would be too risky financially, while younger ones
were enamored with the idea of building their own country.
The result saved Cameron from a historic defeat and also helped opposition
chief Ed Miliband by keeping his many Labour Party lawmakers in Scotland in
place. Labour would have found it much harder to win a national election in
2015 without that support from Scotland.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scot, returned to prominence with a
dramatic barnstorming campaign in support of the union in the final days before
the referendum vote. Brown argued passionately that Scots could be devoted to
Scotland but still proud of their place in the U.K., rejecting the argument
that independence was the patriotic choice.
"There is not a cemetery in Europe that does not have Scots, English, Welsh
and Irish lined side by side," Brown said before the vote. "We not only won
these wars together, we built the peace together. What we have built together
by sacrificing and sharing, let no narrow nationalism split asunder."
For his part, Cameron --- aware that his Conservative Party is widely
loathed in Scotland --- begged voters not to use a vote for independence as a
way to bash the Tories.
The vote against independence keeps the United Kingdom from losing a
substantial part of its territory and oil reserves and prevents it from having
to find a new base for its nuclear arsenal, now housed in Scotland. It had also
faced a possible loss of influence within international institutions including
the 28-nation European Union, NATO and the United Nations.
The decision also means Britain can avoid a prolonged period of financial
insecurity that had been predicted by some if Scotland broke away.
"This has been a long, hard fight and both sides have campaigned fiercely,"
said Norma Austin Hart, a Labour Party member of Edinburgh City Council. "This
has not been like a normal election campaign. There have been debates in town
halls and school halls and church halls.
"It's been so intense," she said. "But the people of Scotland have decided."