Scotland’s landmark independence referendum has resulted in most voters choosing to keep the 307-year union with England.
With all 32 regional electoral centres reporting on Friday, supporters of the United Kingdom won about 55.3 percent of the vote that has worried allies and investors. About 44.7 percent voted for independence.
Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister, conceded defeat, saying “we know it is a majority for the No campaign” and calling on Scots to accept the results of the vote.
He also said he would step down from his post and as leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) at its conference in November.
Those against independence received a massive boost by strongly taking Edinburgh, the capital, and Aberdeen, the nation’s oil centre.
The average turnout was 86 percent – a record high for any Scottish election.
Risks to economy
Salmond had argued that Scots could go it alone because of its extensive oil reserves and high levels of ingenuity and education.
However, many saw it as a “head versus hearts” campaign, with cautious older Scots concluding that independence would be too risky financially, while younger ones were enamoured with the idea of building their own country.
In return for staying in the union, Scotland’s voters have been promised significant – though somewhat unspecified – new powers by the British government, which had feared losing Scotland forever.
Nick Clegg, the UK’s deputy prime minister, on Friday said he wanted the coalition government to deliver new powers to Scotland, saying Scots’ rejection of independence was a signal for wider constitutional reform across all of Britain.
“I’m absolutely delighted the Scottish people have taken this momentous decision to safeguard our family of nations for future generations,” Clegg said in a statement.
“We must now deliver on time and in full the radical package of newly devolved powers to Scotland. This referendum marks not only a new chapter for Scotland within the UK but also wider constitutional reform across the Union.”
The result saves David Cameron, UK prime minister, from a historic defeat and also helps opposition chief Ed Miliband by keeping his many Labour Party legislators in Scotland in place.
His party would have found it harder to win a national election in 2015 without that support from Scotland.
Gordon Brown, former prime minister, who is a Scot, returned to prominence with a vigorous 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 United Kingdom, 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 in his final speech 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.”