By Alistair Smout and Angus MacSwan
Scotland has chosen to stay in the United Kingdom, spurning independence in a historic referendum that had worried allies and investors, results showed on Friday with more than two thirds of the vote declared.
Scotland’s final verdict on the union should be clear within two hours. Supporters of the United Kingdom have won 54 per cent of the vote, according to Reuters calculations, and that share could climb.
Scottish nationalist leader Alex Salmond conceded defeat over his bid to win independence and demanded the British government rapidly meet its promise of more powers for Edinburgh.
“Scotland has by a majority decided not at this stage to become an independent country. I accept that verdict of the people,” Salmond told independence supporters in the Scottish capital.
Leaders of Britain’s three main parties, shocked by the strong showing of the independence campaign in recent weeks, scrambled to offer Scots more devolved powers if they remained part of the United Kingdom.
“Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid course,” Salmond said.
Sterling rose sharply while unionist campaigners clapped, cheered and poured drinks as results were announced. Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister David Cameron were expected to make statements later.
Though the nationalists won Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow, they failed to meet expectations in a clutch of other constituencies.
The campaign for independence had galvanised this country of 5.3 million but also divided friends and families from the remote Scottish islands of the Atlantic to the tough city estates of Glasgow.
Breaking apart the United Kingdom has worried allies, investors and the entire British elite whose leaders rushed late in the campaign to check what opinion polls showed was a surge in support for independence.
Seeking to tap into a cocktail of historical rivalry, opposing political tastes and a perception that London has mismanaged Scotland, nationalists say Scots, not London, should rule
Scotland to build a wealthier and fairer country.
Unionists had warned independence would usher in financial, economic and political uncertainty and diminish the UK’s standing in the world. They have warned that Scotland would not keep the pound as part of a formal currency union.
Beyond the money and power, the referendum has provoked deep passions in Scotland, drawn in many voters who ignore traditional political campaigns and underscored what London politicians admit is a need for wider constitutional change.
Scots were asked to answer “Yes” or “No” to the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”.
Voters lined up at polling stations across Scotland to vote with 4.28 million voters, or 97 per cent of the electorate, registered to vote. Turnout hit a record high of around 84 per cent.