The Scottish people have voted against independence on a massive, record-breaking turnout. The Yes campaign is conceding defeat, and the No campaign’s leading lights are magnanimous in victory.
David Cameron said this morning outside Downing Street that “the people of Scotland have spoken… they have kept our country of four nations together.”
“It would have broken my heart” had Scotland gone independent, he added.
“Scotland voted for a stronger Scottish parliament, backed by the strength and security of the United Kingdom.”
But this isn’t the end of the debate. With Scotland being promised more devolved powers, Cameron is now backing a “balanced settlement, fair to people in Scotland and fair to people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well”
“The rights of these voters need to be respected, preserved and enhanced… The question of English votes for English laws, the so-called west Lothian question, requires a decisive answer.”
Cameron is in some ways in a lose-lose situation. If he had lost the referendum, he would have faced blame from his own Conservative party MPs. Despite the No vote, the same MPs will now scrap with him over new powers for Scotland, arguing that England should be more fairly represented.
He’s planning on rushing proposals for further English, Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh devolution through, with proposals by November, well ahead of the 2015 general election. This could mean massive changes, potentially an English parliament.
Earlier on, Alistair Darling, former chancellor and No campaign leader, made a poetic victory speech: “We have reaffirmed all that we have in common and the bonds that tie us together. Let them never be broken.”
Alex Salmond conceded just after 6 a.m. this morning (1 a.m. ET), admitting that “Scotland has, by a majority, decided at this stage not to become an independent country,” and called on all parties to respect the vote.
“5%, 1.6 million of our fellow citizens voting for independence… I don’t think any of us, entering politics, would have thought such a thing credible or possible.
“We shall go forward, as one nation.”
Salmond gave no indication that the Scottish nationalists would be letting up their pressure. He slammed what he described as fear-mongering by the “Westminster elite,” pushing for rapid further devolution of powers to Scotland.
On the full devolution of income tax powers to Edinburgh, Scottish deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC at about 5 a.m. this morning, “that’s what needs to be delivered,” adding that existing promises fall “woefully short” on the devolution of department like welfare.
She added that she “absolutely believed in my heart and my head” that the campaign could have triumphed.
“That appetite for change, that demand is there, and we’ve got to make sure that demand is yet,” said Sturgeon, probably signaling the new few years for the Scottish National Party. She could be the party’s new leader if Salmond goes.
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