After months of campaigning leading up to an unprecedented, history-making referendum on their country’s future, the people of Scotland have said no to independence and chosen to remain a part of the United Kingdom, according to unofficial counts released in thirty-one of thirty-two local jurisdictions.
As of around 10:30 PM Pacific Time on Thursday September 18th (September 19th British Time), the vote against independence stood at 1,914,187 (55%) and the vote for independence was 1,539,920 (44.58%). Turnout across Scotland was well above eighty percent, setting a new record for a standalone election.
The Better Together (No) campaign clinched its victory with the declaration of the vote in Fife, where 44.95% of voters favored independence and 55.05% were opposed, almost exactly mirroring Scotland as a whole.
Scotland’s two largest cities were divided on the question of independence. Glasgow, the largest, voted for an independent Scotland, while Edinburgh voted to stay with the United Kingdom. Dundee City, North Lanarkshire, and West Dunbartonshire also voted for independence. But all the other councils voted no.
(The council of Highland, which is geographically very large but somewhat small in terms of population, has yet to report any results.)
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, the face of the campaign for independence, stood before his supporters in Edinburgh to concede and remind the U.K.‘s federal parties (the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, and Labour) that his constituents would hold them to their pledges to grant it increased autonomy.
“The unionist parties made vows late in the campaign to devolve more powers to Scotland,” Salmond noted during his remarks.
“Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid course. As a reminder, we have been promised a second reading of a Scotland Bill by March 27th next year… All Scots who participated in this referendum will demand that timetable is followed.”
A short time later, Better Together leader Alistair Darling stood before his exuberant supporters in Glasgow to thank them and celebrate victory.
“The people of Scotland have spoken. We have chosen unity over division,” Darling said. Addressing the elated Better Together volunteers, he declared, “You represent the majority of opinion and your voices have been heard.”
He was interrupted remarks several times with raucous applause. “We’ve taken on the argument and we’ve won. The silent have spoken.”
On news of the outcome, the pound sterling jumped dramatically against the dollar and the euro, reflecting a sense of relief from abroad that the United Kingdom would not be breaking up within the next year and a half.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will address the nation shortly (he already called Alistair Darling to congratulate the No campaign), and Buckingham Palace has confirmed that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will issue a statement commenting on the results as well. The queen, who is supposed to be above politics, took no public or official position on the referendum, though commentators have suggested that Britain’s royal family was privately hoping for a no vote.
UPDATE: David Cameron has delivered a statement in front of Number Ten Downing Street, praising the outcome of the vote and promising to deliver on promises to grant Scotland more autonomy within the next year. He also stressed that the United Kingdom’s other nations (Wales, England, Northern Ireland) should also have a greater say in the management of their affairs.
Cameron also tweeted, “I’ve just spoken to Alex Salmond, congratulating him on a hard-fought campaign. I’m delighted the SNP will join talks on further devolution.”