Scotland votes to remain part of the UK

BY George Parker and Mure Dickie | FROM Financial Times | 2014-09-19 13:28

  Last updated: September 19, 2014 5:34 am

  Scotland has voted decisively to remain part of the United Kingdom, as an army of “silent” No voters defeated an unprecedented challenge to the 307-year union.

  With only two council areas to declare results, the No campaign was heading for a victory with a margin of 55 to 45 per cent. But the impact of the vote will trigger a major constitutional upheaval for the whole of the UK.

  Alex Salmond’s dream of independence was defeated on the night, but David Cameron will on Friday acknowledge that Scots have made it clear they want to exercise more powers closer to home.

  That in turn is expected to lead to a new constitutional settlement for the whole UK, with more power for English MPs over their own affairs and a transfer of money and power from Westminster to big cities.

  Yes supporters held their heads in their hands as the results came in amid signs that Mr Salmond’s passionate campaign had failed to convince wavering Scots to break their links with the rest of the UK. Michael Gove, chief whip, declared: “It looks as if the UK will be safe tomorrow.”

  Mr Salmond secured victory in Glasgow: the city voted Yes by 53 to 47 per cent and also won in Dundee. But the margins of victory were not as great as he had hoped and the victory was offset by heavy defeats elsewhere in the country. The No campaign won Edinburgh, by 54.6 to 45.3 per cent.

  Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Salmond’s deputy, said that whatever the result Scotland had delivered a decisive “call for change”.

  By 6.11am, 30 of 32 council areas declared, accounting for 93.6 per cent of registered voters’ votes. The No campaign’s lead was 364,606 votes.

  Sterling continues to make strong gains in reaction to the polls, rising 0.7 per cent to $1.6520. The pound is gaining a similar amount versus the euro and is up 1.2 per cent against a broadly weaker yen. Traders are betting on a stronger open for the UK’s FTSE 100 stock index, with futures contracts having risen 46 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 6826.

  David Cameron was said by aides to be preparing a major statement on the future constitutional settlement for the whole UK on Friday; he has promised that a No vote would trigger a transfer of new powers to the Scottish parliament.

  The Queen, who was said by aides to be following the referendum “very, very closely” at Balmoral, is also expected to make a written statement on Friday on the implications of the vote for the UK.

  As the result of the referendum over Scotland’s future emerged, business began to react with relief although voicing concern over continuing uncertainty.

  “There can be no doubt that many businesses will breathe a sigh of relief that the prospect of a contentious currency debate and prolonged economic negotiations have been avoided, and yet we know that significant changes are still on the cards,” said Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors in London.

  “As negotiations commence on a future settlement for Scotland, the focus must be on ensuring that any new powers are used to boost Scotland’s economic competitiveness, unleash enterprise and attract further investment.”

  Scotland’s aerospace, defence and marine industry, which accounts for 10 per cent of the UK economy and employs some 40,000 people, has been particularly anxious about the prospect of Scottish independence.

  Paul Everitt, chief executive of defence trade organisation ADS, said: “The decision by the people of Scotland to continue our union offers a great opportunity to build a stronger and better balanced economy together.”

  One kilted man with blue face paint held his head in his hands for several minutes, motionless. A red headed girl was in tears. Others kicked the chunks of glass that littered the ground in disgust.

  Walking home after a night on George Square, Robert Lindsay, a Yes supporting pensioner, said: “I’m pretty down but a lot of people have been mobilised and politicised by this. There were a lot of us.”

  “I think it’s a fix - everyone I spoke to said they were voting Yes,” said one twenty something.

  Scotland is deciding in a referendum being held on Thursday whether or not to end the 307-year-old union with England

  A spokesman for the chief counting officer said there were no reports of difficulties with voting, and queues had been managed efficiently. Reports from individual local authorities suggested that by mid-afternoon voters had come in a steady stream rather than sudden surges.

  Both sides, meanwhile, said they had put tens of thousands of volunteers on the streets for a final big push to get supporters to the polling stations. Better Together said they had an estimated 30,000-35,000 people working on the day, knocking on doors, delivering leaflets and making telephone calls. Yes Scotland put its estimate at 40,000.

  The scale of activity on polling day reflected a campaign that gathered energy as it neared its climax.

  The Yes campaign claimed one of its highest-profile celebrity endorsements just after polls opened, when Andy Murray, the tennis player and former Wimbledon champion, tweeted his support for independence.

  Dozens of pro-union MPs, especially from Labour, travelled north of the border as they sought to halt any last-minute momentum building behind the Yes campaign.

  Despite having been harassed during a walkabout in Edinburgh two days ago, Ed Miliband spent the day knocking on doors in Glasgow. Dozens of other Labour MPs travelled to other parts of the country, while Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat president, campaigned in the Borders.

  Expectations of violence at polling booths were largely unfounded, with few reports of aggressive behaviour.

      Reuters

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