Scotland votes ‘no’ to independence in historic referendum

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Photo courtesy of the New York Times

By Laura Smith-Spark

Euan McKirdy and Nic Robertson CNN

GLASGOW, Scotland (CNN) — Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom — along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland — following a historic referendum vote.

A majority of voters rejected the possibility of Scotland breaking away and becoming an independent nation.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond admitted defeat in a televised statement early Friday — and urged the rest of Scotland to do the same.

He thanked Scotland “for 1.6 million votes for Scottish independence.”

A turnout of 86% is one of the highest in the democratic world for any such vote, he said.

With 31 of 32 of councils reporting, the “No” campaign had garnered enough votes to secure their victory, and with it Scotland’s continued place within the United Kingdom.

The result means the main political parties in Westminster — and many people across the United Kingdom and Scotland — can breathe a collective sigh of relief that the threat of a breakup of a centuries-old union is over. However, many on the “yes” side will be bitterly disappointed.

Salmond hailed the political engagement seen in Scotland during the campaign and appealed for unity going forward.

“Today of all days, as we bring Scotland together, let us not dwell on the distance we have fallen short. Let us dwell on the distance we have traveled and have confidence that a movement is abroad in Scotland that will take this nation forward, and we shall go forward as one nation.”

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is due to give a statement on the outcome of the vote.

‘Unity over division’

Labour lawmaker Alistair Darling, who led the pro-union campaign in the Scottish referendum, hailed the result Friday but said that the message that the people of Scotland want change must be heard.

“The people of Scotland have spoken,” he said.”We have chosen unity over division and positive change rather than needless separation.

“Today is a momentous result for Scotland and also for the United Kingdom as a whole — by confirming our place within the union we reaffirm all that we have in common and the bonds that tie us together. Let them never be broken.”

He gave a commitment that the political changes promised by the Westminster parties — involving the devolution of more powers to Scotland — would be kept.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, whose Liberal Democrats are in a coalition government with Cameron’s Conservatives, said he was “absolutely delighted” by the result.

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

“But a vote against independence was clearly not a vote against change and we must now deliver on time and in full the radical package of newly devolved powers to Scotland.

“At the same time, this referendum north of the border has led to demand for constitutional reform across the United Kingdom as people south of the border also want more control and freedom in their own hands rather than power being hoarded in Westminster.”

The first councils to declare all went to the “No” campaign, as did the capital, Edinburgh, which voted overwhelmingly to stay in the union with 123,927 for “Yes” and 194,628 “No” votes. Argyll and Bute and Aberdeenshire also voted “No.”

Glasgow delivered a solid win for the independence camp with 194,779 votes for “Yes,” and 169,347 for “No,” but the lead was not big enough to overturn the “No” camp’s overall majority.

With one result to come, the Highland district, the “No” camp maintains an 8% (54% to 46%) lead over the pro-independence camp.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed Scotland’s decision to remain within the United Kingdom Friday following an independence referendum, saying it was a clear result. “Like millions of other people I am delighted,” he said. Cameron would have been heartbroken to see the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland broken up, he said, but he had heard the call for change. A “balanced settlement” is needed for all parts of the union, he said.

CNN’s Nic Robertson reported from Glasgow, Laura Smith-Spark reported and wrote in London and Euan McKirdy in Hong Kong. CNN’s Richard Allen Greene and Lindsay Isaac contributed to this report.

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