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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 
watershed vote.

   "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 
drizzle.

   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 
single-malt whisky.

   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."


(KA)


 
 
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