Relief for Cameron as Scotland decides against separation

19 Sep 2014


Scotland on Thursday rejected separation from the United Kingdom, as over 50 per cent of voters saying 'no' to break up its 307-year-old union with England.

David CameronAfter an intensely fought campaign, with 31 out of the country's 32 council declared results, the margin of victory was about 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

Glasgow, Scotland's largest council area and the third-largest city in Britain, voted in favour of independence, while capital Edinburgh rejected it.

As many people across the country heaved a collective sigh of relief, the implications of the rejection were beginning to come to the fore - Westminster will have to deliver the promises of more autonomy to Scotland in the near future, made during the closing stages of the campaign.

''I accept the verdict of the people. We now face the consequences of the decision. Scotland will now expect the vows made by unionist parties to give more powers to be delivered,'' said Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister and leader of the separation campaign.

The verdict is expected to lead to a more federal United Kingdom, with more powers to Wales, Northern Ireland and England, along the lines of those promised to Scotland.

While Prime Minister David Cameron offered sops for Scotland to remain in the UK, former Labour PM Gordon Brown emerged as the main figure in the 'No' campaign with at least three passionate speeches towards the closing stages of the campaign.

Cameron said he had congratulated Alistair Darling, leader of the "Better Together" campaign, while Nicola Sturgeon, one of the top "Yes" campaign leaders, expressed her "deep personal and political disappointment".

The "No" camp was always the favourite to win; but with pre-vote polls showing a closer race than earlier predicted, Cameron pulled out all stops, offering increasing autonomy to Scotland (See: UK to offer Scotland more sops ahead of close-run referendum).

Scotland's First minister Alex SalmondPanic stations
The "No" camp had a head start. When the Edinburgh Agreement was signed on 15 October 2012, paving the way for a referendum in 2014, polls suggested only about a third of Scotland's 4.2 million voters wanted independence.

A plethora of polls over the next 18 months consistently put the "No" camp ahead, with some polls indicating a rising sentiment for independence.

However, a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times put the "Yes" vote ahead about 10 days ago, creating an upset in the UK government.

Happily for the "No" side, most of the following polls put them back in the lead again and they were able to finish ahead of the underdogs on polling day.

A resurgence of Britishness - either caused by, or coinciding with the referendum - is credited with giving the pro-union "No"campaign a boost.

The number of people living in Scotland who chose British as their national identity rose from 15 per cent in 2011 to 23 per cent in 2014, according to the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey. The number of people who chose Scottish fell from 75 per cent to 65 per cent over the same period.

The "No" campaign came under fire from the "Yes" campaign for being negative, with some dubbing it "Project Fear".

In April, Scotland's First Minster Alex Salmond called the "No"campaign "the most miserable, negative, depressing and thoroughly boring" in modern times. In contrast, he said the "Yes" campaign was "positive, uplifting and hopeful".

However, the "No"vote suggests "Better Together" was successful in drawing people back from the prospect of taking a risk that was not necessary.

Earlier this week, Cameron told Scottish voters it was his "duty" to warn them of the stark costs of a "painful divorce".

This would have meant that Scotland could no longer use the UK pound as its currency, and would be cut off from the Bank of England – a prospect that had alarm bells ringing among business and industry.

The British pound rose sharply on Friday morning after Scotland said "No" to independence, reclaiming its position as the best-performing major currency of the past 12 months (Pound sterling gets big boost from Scotland's 'no' vote). 

(Also see: Implication of a Yes vote on the UK's civil service)

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