Millions flocked to polling stations across Scotland Yesterday, millions of Scots exercised their democratic right and voted in the independence referendum and at 6.08am this morning, it became clear that Scotland had officially voted No.
The final results:
Yes: 1,617,989 – 44.7%
No: 2,001,926 – 55.3%
84.6% of registered Scots voted making this election the highest turnout in the UK in the post-war era.
Only four of Scotland’s 32 local authorities voted Yes, including the UK’s 3rd biggest city, Glasgow.
As the campaign neared its conclusion, but the before the recent surge, Yes were privately briefing that 40%+ would be considered a victory. Having received 1.6m votes, independence supporters will claim a mandate to argue for further powers to be devolved to Scotland.
Perhaps one of the most significant achievements for Yes Scotland in the independence referendum has been to normalise the idea of independence.
Having witnessed the Better Together lead in the polls erode as the campaign reached its conclusion, a 10% victory will be seen as a comfortable result. This position will be reinforced as the pollsters tipped a 52-48 win for No.
Following the result, First Minister Alex Salmond said: “The process by which we have made our decision as a nation reflects enormous credit upon Scotland…this has been a triumph for the democratic process… Scotland will expect unionist vows on more powers to be honoured in rapid course. Scotland has been promised a second reading of the Scotland Bill by 27th March…all Scots will demand that that timetable is followed. We shall go forward as one nation”
David Cameron: “The People of Scotland have spoken and it is a clear result…we have heard the settled will of the Scottish people. To all those who voted for independence: we hear you. We have delivered on devolution and we will do so again in the next Parliament…Clear commitment on further powers for Scotland. It is absolutely right that a new and fair settlement for Scotland should be accompanied by one for all parts of UK. The referendum has been hard-fought, electrified politics in Scotland.”
Nick Clegg: “This referendum marks not only a new chapter for Scotland within the UK but also wider constitutional reform across the Union. The indyref has led to demand for constitutional reform across the UK. People want power in their own hands, not hoarded in Westminster.”
Alistair Darling, Better Together: “Today is a momentous result for Scotland and also for the UK as a whole. As we celebrate, let us also listen. Every party must listen to the cry for change.”
The Prime Minister has announced that Lord Smith of Kelvin will oversee the more powers process.
Alex Salmond is due to give a full press conference at 10am from Bute House, Edinburgh.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in his intervention to the debate last week said that delivering further power for Scotland starts today.
A Command Paper is due to be delivered by the end of October with draft legislation to be introduced by 25 January 2015. In Mr Salmond’s concession speech he made it absolutely clear that the SNP are intent on holding these proposals and timetable to account.
The Prime Minister also announced this morning that William Hague will be charged with leading cross-party work on delivering a new and fair settlement for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Mr Cameron is setting up a Cabinet Committee imminently and this process will work to the same timetable as that promised to Scotland. This is a hugely ambitious undertaking from the Prime Minister, especially with the UK General Election just six months away.
The SNP have confirmed that they will join talks on further devolution (in the past having declined invitations to join cross-party constitutional conventions).
Many on the Yes side are sceptical that the three UK parties can deliver further devolution for Scotland.
The Scottish Parliament returns on Tuesday afternoon, where Alex Salmond will lead a debate on the independence campaign.
The proposals for further devolution need to be ironed out and agreed by Westminster in a very tight timetable.
Big constitutional change has to come. There is a clear appetite for more powers and many No votes were predicated on further devolution for Scotland.
The UK Government and the Labour Party have promised further powers for Scotland. Failure to deliver these powers against expectation (which was escalated by Gordon Brown’s intervention last week) will run the risk of fermenting further disillusionment with the Westminster system. We expect the SNP to hold the unionist parties to account during the process of the new Scotland Bill. Any slippage in the ambitious timetable that has been set out will hand political capital to the nationalists ahead of the Westminster elections in 2015, as well as the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections.
Sources close to Alex Salmond say that he will continue as First Minister and SNP leader. The SNP are a remarkably disciplined political party, but there is speculation that some may break ranks. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was able to deliver a Yes vote in her backyard, whereas many SNP ‘big beasts’ (including Salmond himself) couldn’t.
This result has serious implications for Labour in Scotland. Ed Miliband is now more unpopular than an already unpopular David Cameron according to recent polling. As James Miller, Sunday Post’s political correspondent pointed out: “Anyone from Labour saying this a good result is wrong. Fundamental problems for the party in Scotland, failing to convince heartlands.” There will be further headaches for Labour strategists as Yes won every single Glasgow parliamentary constituency seat in what was once considered safe territory.
For more information or to discuss any aspect of the above, please contact Conor Magowan, Weber Shandwick Scotland’s Public Affairs Director at firstname.lastname@example.org