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Scotland Rejects Independence

  • Marianne Brown
  • Henry Ridgwell

Scotland has voted against breaking away from the United Kingdom and becoming independent.

The result in Thursday's referendum is being welcomed by other governments around the world battling secessionist movements. But in London, it heralds a complex road ahead as other regions of Britain demand greater autonomy.

For the pro-independence camp it was a narrow but crushing defeat. For the UK government in London, a moment of relief. Prime Minister David Cameron, who said he is “delighted” with the result of Scotland’s referendum, re-iterated his pledge to give Scotland more powers.

“So just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues on tax, spending and welfare, so too England as well as Wales and Northern Ireland should be able to vote on these issues.”

Cameron said draft legislation would be ready by January.

Celebrations began in the early hours of Friday among ‘No’ supporters who had campaigned for two years to stay in the Union alongside England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Tallies from all 32 Scottish councils show that 55.3 percent of voters were in favor of remaining part of Britain compared with 44.7 percent for independence, a wider margin than anticipated after a record 85 percent turnout.

But leaders from across the United Kingdom said the union must change if it is to endure.

"Better Together" campaign leader Alistair Darling told Labor Party supporters that Friday's results “settled the question of independence for a generation.”

"We have changed Scotland and we have changed the United Kingdom forever, too, and it's our job to make sure that we build on that for the good of the people that we seek to represent.''

In a message to those who voted for independence, Labor Party leader Ed Miliband said their aspirations for change must be considered.

“Whether people voted no or yes in this referendum, let us be absolutely clear this was a vote for change. Change doesn't end today. Change begins today because we know our country needs to change," he said. "We know that our country needs to change in the way it is governed and we know our country needs to change in who it is governed for.”

In a concession speech, Scottish Nationalist Leader Alex Salmond, who led the ‘Yes’ campaign, called the referendum a triumph of the democratic process. He said “Scotland can still emerge as the real winner."

"And Scotland ... by a majority has decided not, at this stage, not to become an independent country," he said. "I accept that verdict of the people and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland."

Salmond later announced his resignation as Scotland’s First Minister, to take effect in November.

”My time as First Minister is nearly over, but for Scotland, the dream will never die, he said."

Salmond also called on London to honor its pledge of granting more powers to Scottish lawmakers.

The result of the referendum sent the pound up against the dollar and the euro. London's FTSE index also rose on the news.

Obama welcomes result

U.S. President Barack Obama praised what he called "passionate yet peaceful deliberations" which "reminded the world of Scotland's enormous contributions to the UK and the world."

He said he looks forward to a continued strong relationship with the United Kingdom.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy expressed similar sentiment.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso Friday called the outcome positive for Europe and applauded Scotland's strong commitment to the EU.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen congratulated British Prime Minister David Cameron and said he is sure the United Kingdom will continue to play a leading role in keeping the alliance strong.

The markets witnessed a relief rally Friday, after Scotland spurned independence.

Meanwhile in Spain, Catalan President Artur Mas says he is undeterred by Scotland's decision and that Catalans should also have a chance to vote on independence.

“The real factor," he said, "is that they had the chance and the possibility to vote and this is the key point. This is what we are looking for.”

The Catalonia region of northeast Spain plans its own referendum on independence in November - a poll not recognized by Madrid.

Sleepless night

It was a sleepless night for many across Scotland as the results of the referendum on independence slowly trickled in early Friday.

A "No" vote was expected early on, as several constituencies predicted to deliver a “Yes” majority supported the union instead.

At 7:00 a.m. London time, David Cameron said the referendum delivered “a clear result” rejecting full independence.

"So there can be no disputes, no re-runs, we have heard the settled will of the Scottish people," he said. "Scotland voted for a stronger Scottish parliament backed by the strength and security of the United Kingdom and I want to congratulate the 'No' campaign for that, for showing people that our nations really are ‘Better Together.'"

He added that the three pro-union parties will honor commitments made on further powers for the Scottish Parliament, including on affairs such as tax, spending and welfare. The prime minister said those rights will also be extended to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Across Edinburgh, a chilly drizzle settled on the streets, matching the mood for many 'Yes' supporters who gathered to hear the results.

Kitchen manager Grant McNeil, 28, was following the count at a cafe in the center of the city. As a 'Yes' voter, he said he and his friends had been expecting a close call, but were surprised by the large swing to 'No.'

"It’s upsetting, it’s emotional," said McNeil. "The thing that goes along the bottom, Labor and the Tories dancing with each other, that sums it up for me really. The media has been completely bias[ed]... There are things that won’t be forgotten. It will also be interesting to see the promises made by Westminster very last minute."

International interest

The pro-independence movement attracted attention from across the world, with speculation that a 'Yes' vote could encourage similar calls for independence from countries across Europe.

Law student Montse Rodriguez, 20, travelled to Edinburgh from Catalonia with a group of friends to support the 'Yes' campaign.

Speaking to VOA in Edinburgh before the polls closed, she said the referendum was “very important” to people in her country.

"There’s a group of young people who came here to feel the feelings of the young people and the situation because it’s very important for us. We feel it’s not the same but we are in a very similar situation," said Rodriguez.

The 'No' vote is expected to avert a fall in the pound due to uncertainty about a currency union if 'Yes' had won the day.

Supporters on both sides took to social media to appeal for understanding and reconciliation.

Some material for this report provided by Reuters.

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