Despite previous polls, the result was not as close as predicted.
Scotland has chosen not to leave the United Kingdom, with 53.8% voting “No” and 46.2% voting “Yes”. This result has significantly higher turnout at 88.6% than most General Elections, which these days average around 65%, and so it clearly has a very high level of legitimacy and a good representation of the views of the Scottish people.
Dundee had the highest percentage of “Yes” votes at 57.35%, while the Orkney Islands had the lowest at 32.80%. Other areas that achieved over 50% in “Yes” votes were Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire.
Alex Salmond has conceded, saying,
“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.”
“I pledge to work constructively in the interests of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. Today of all days as we bring Scotland together, let us not dwell on the distance we have fallen short, let us focus on the distance we have travelled…we will go forward as one nation.”
However, he claimed that the Yes campaign struck “terror” into the Westminster Government and said he expects devolution promises to Scotland to be “honoured in rapid course”.
Key political leaders David Cameron and Ed Miliband are both delighted by Scotland’s decision to stay, with Cameron pledging to allow both Scotland and England to have more devolved powers, focusing on local governments rather than power coming from the central government in Westminster. This comes after Cameron, Clegg and Miliband signed a letter on Tuesday promising further devolution if Scotland voted No, and it seems that the Labour Party are wanting the same devolved powers for people and local governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
UKIP leader Nigel Farage said he was pleased the union had been maintained, but it is time to have a “constitutional convention to find out how a fair UK would work”. He is cynical about the promises made by the three main party leaders, and does not think that the English taxpayer should be bound by promises made by them during the referendum campaign, saying
“The fact that three party leaders made commitments on behalf of millions of UK voters means nothing. Why should I stand by a panicky commitment to Scotland made by the prime minister?”
“I think England needs a voice – we’ve heard a lot from Scotland. The dog can’t continue wagging the dog any longer. We must have English MPs voting on English only matters.”
This echoes the West Lothian question, first identified by Labour MP Tam Dalyell in 1977, that pointed out the unfairness that Scottish MPs can vote on policies on schools and hospitals in England in a devolved system, but English MPs have no say on how these are run in Scotland as this is overseen by the Scottish Parliament
Ultimately a turnout of 88.6% is one of the highest of the democratic world in any election or any referendum in history. This high turnout shows how important this referendum was to the people of Scotland, and the high level of political engagement on this issue indicates that the vast majority cared deeply about the future of Scotland and indeed the UK. It is not difficult to see why so many Scottish people wanted independence, and in many ways it was hard not to sympathise with them. But the “No” vote brings the UK together in a progressive and positive way, highlighting that the Central Government model of Westminster is not viable for rapidly changing politics in the UK, as it cannot know the issues every part of the UK faces in detail. The “No” vote is a green light for change, and devolution is needed to bring power to local governments, in Scotland and the rest of the UK.