Scotland rejects independence as No campaign triumphs

Published on Friday, 19 September 2014 09:43
Written by Daniel Mason

David Cameron has pledged to honour commitments to devolve further powers to the Scottish parliament after the success of the No campaign in yesterday's independence referendum.

Voters in Scotland chose to remain part of the UK by a margin of 55% to 45% on a high turnout of 84.5%. In total there were 2,001,926 votes for No and 1,617,989 for Yes.

Speaking in Downing Street this morning Cameron said he was delighted at the "clear result" that "kept our country of four nations together".

"It would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end," the prime minister said.

"And I know that sentiment was shared by people, not just across our country, but also around the world because of what we've achieved together in the past and what we can do together in the future.

"So now it is time for our United Kingdom to come together and to move forward."

Cameron tweeted that he had contacted the leader of the Better Together campaign, Labour's Alistair Darling, to congratulate him.

In a statement the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said: "I'm absolutely delighted the Scottish people have taken this momentous decision to safeguard our family of nations for future generations.

"In a dangerous and uncertain world I have no doubt we are stronger, safer, and more prosperous together than we ever could be apart."

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, tweeted that he was "delighted and proud that the people of Scotland have made this historic decision to stay. Our United Kingdom is stronger today than it was yesterday."

Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP and the Yes campaign, accepted defeat but said the high turnout was a "triumph for the democratic process".

He said: "Whatever else we can say about this referendum campaign, we have touched sections of the community who have never before been touched by politics, these sections of the community have touched us and touched the political process."

Salmond urged Yes supporters to reflect on how far they had come rather than the margin of defeat.

Meanwhile Cameron said the result provided a "great opportunity to change the way the British people are governed and change it for the better".

All the main Westminster parties promised a No vote would be followed by a further devolution of powers to the Scottish parliament but Cameron said this would go hand-in-hand with wider changes across the UK.

The prime minister said Lord Smith of Kelvin would oversee the process of taking forward the commitment on Scottish devolution.

Calling for cross-party consensus to be reached on the issue, he added: "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. The rights of these voters need to be respected, preserved and enhanced as well.

"It is absolutely right that a new and fair settlement for Scotland should be accompanied by a new and fair settlement that applies to all parts of our United Kingdom.

"In Wales, there are proposals to give the Welsh government and assembly more powers. And I want Wales to be at the heart of the debate on how to make our United Kingdom work for all our nations.

"In Northern Ireland, we must work to ensure that the devolved institutions function effectively.

"I have long believed that a crucial part missing from this national discussion is England. We have heard the voice of Scotland - and now the millions of voices of England must also be heard. The question of English votes for English laws - the so-called West Lothian question - requires a decisive answer.

"So, just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues and all this must take place in tandem with, and at the same pace as, the settlement for Scotland."

Salmond insisted the commitments on Scottish devolution should be "honoured in rapid course". He later announced he would resign as Scotland's first minister following the defeat of the Yes campaign.

The centre-right Institute of Economic Affairs thinktank said that, given wide-ranging new powers, Scotland could "expect to leap ahead of other western European nations".

Its director general, Mark Littlewood, said: "By rediscovering its entrepreneurial spirit, Scotland can be confident that it has a truly amazing future ahead of it."

Peter Riddell, director of the Institute for Government, said: "The decisive result of the Scottish referendum means that discussion will now focus on more devolution for Scotland, and, also crucially, for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"David Cameron's statement provided a sense of urgency and direction. But the no result raises several big questions. First, the timetable for agreeing and producing proposals is very, very demanding and risks disillusion and a backlash if dates are missed."

He added: "Secondly, the state of the debate on English devolution is at a much earlier stage with ideas rather than worked-up plans. This debate needs to be rapid to meet the timetable."

In his statement Cameron said there should be draft legislation on Scottish devolution by January, with the changes with regards to the rest of the UK moving at the same pace.

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