LONDON, United Kingdom – Scotland has voted to remain in the United Kingdom. In a result that will bring a sigh of relief to many in Britain, Europe and the wider world, the ‘No’ campaign is on course to win the Scottish independence referendum on a projected margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.
Although polls in the run-up to voting had given the ‘No’ campaign a narrow lead, many said the result would be too close to call, and with the ‘Yes’ side gaining ground, an upset still looked possible.
But over the course of an initially tense night, as council after council declared in favour of ‘No’, it became clear that this would be a comfortable victory for the pro-Union campaign.
Although ‘Yes’ strongholds of Dundee and Glasgow declared in favour of independence, the nationalists did not win these by a big enough margin to swing the national vote.
One of the biggest surprises was the ‘No’ victory in the Western Isles, which is a largely Gaelic-speaking area and has a history of electing SNP representatives.
Scotland’s First Deputy Minister Nicola Sturgeon admitted in the early hours that her party’s campaign for independence had likely been defeated as preliminary results indicated a decisive victory for the “No” camp – reflecting earlier concerns from the Scottish National Party which were reflected early on when Alex Salmond was reported to have cancelled a morning visit to his home constituency of Aberdeenshire.
“It looks at though we might not get the Yes vote that I was hoping for,” Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC.
Following a pledge by the leaders of the three main UK parties, negotiations are now likely to begin over a new level of autonomy for Scotland, with the country being offered new powers over most policy areas except foreign affairs.
The new constitutional arrangements for Scotland are likely to run into controversy, however, as many backbench Conservative MPs have demanded a fair deal for England, something that could potentially lead to a radical reorganising of the British constitution, with the possibility of either excluding Scottish MPs from voting on issues that don’t affect them, or even the creation of a new English Parliament.
Despite the constitutional uncertainty, markets are likely to react well to the result, with many firms having already bet on a ‘No’ vote yesterday. The British pound nosedived last Sunday when the ‘Yes’ campaign took the lead in one poll, and many big businesses were suddenly prompted to declare their opposition to an independent Scotland, however they will now be relieved that the future of the United Kingdom looks secure.
British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday congratulated Alistair Darling, the man who spearheaded the campaign against Scottish independence, as partial results indicated Scotland had voted to stay in the United Kingdom by a clear margin.