Scotland divided after vote
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) – Following a long night that brought floods of relief for some and bitter disappointment for others, Scotland awoke with a hangover today after voting to reject independence.
Now, the task was to heal the divide – and use the energy the referendum unleashed to hold London politicians to promises of more powers for Scotland.
The result – 55 per cent to 45 per cent – was more decisive than pollsters had foreseen and prompted Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who led the unsuccessful Yes campaign, to resign.
But it meant almost half of Scotland’s more than five million people woke up in a country, the United Kingdom, that they wished to leave.
Queen Elizabeth II, who has kept out of the political debate, said today that “all of us throughout the United Kingdom will respect” the result.
In a statement from her Scottish home at Balmoral castle, the monarch said “despite the range of views that have been expressed, we have in common an enduring love of Scotland, which is one of the things that helps to unite us all”.
Still, Yes supporters have first to get over their bitter disappointment.
“This time, I thought my vote would count for something,” said truck driver Calum Noble, 25, his voice cracking with emotion as a drizzly mist enveloped the Scottish city of Glasgow.
“I wanted a better country, but it’s all been for nothing. I don’t believe we will get any of the things the London politicians promised.”
Salmond’s impassioned plea to launch a new nation fell short, with Scots choosing instead the security of remaining in union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Yet the independence drive tapped a wellspring of youth and energy that campaigners vowed would endure.
“My time as leader is nearly over, but for Scotland the campaign continues and the dream shall never die,” Salmond said today as he announced he would step down as first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party in November.
Salmond said yesterday’s vote on independence had been “galvanising, wonderful, empowering”.
“We now have the opportunity to hold Westminster’s feet to the fire on the vow that they have made to devolve further meaningful power to Scotland,” he said.
In the last weeks of the campaign, Prime Minister David Cameron and other London-based politicians vowed more autonomy for Scotland if voters rejected separation. A visibly relieved Cameron said today he would stick to his word on further powers for each of the U.K. four regions – a pledge that could change the country forever.