Salmond Vows That "Dream Will Never Die"
In the end, the vote that for weeks had looked too close to call was as clear as could be. Faced with the stark question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” 2,001,926 people – 55.3 percent of Scotland’s voters – ultimately decided they could only answer this in the negative, and by the early hours of Friday morning it was clear that Scotland would be remaining in the United Kingdom for the foreseeable future.
Turnout had been busy all day, with 84.6 percent of registered voters casting their votes, topping even the 83.9 percent who voted in the 1950 general election.
As voting ended, pollsters YouGov published the results of a survey of 1800 people it had previously polled. They were asked now how they had actually voted, and only 46 percent had opted for independence, with 54 percent preferring the security of life in the Union to the risks of secession. Announcing these results, YouGov president Peter Kellner said, “it’s a 99 percent certainty it’s a No victory. I can’t see No losing this now.”
As counting continued through the night, local authority after local authority declared its results, with the No side building up a steady lead; only four local authorities declared for Yes, and though they included the vital cities of Glasgow and Dundee, turnout in these areas was lower than the national average—such that these successes did little to balance out the overall result.
Eventually a Yes victory became a mathematical impossibility, and the Yes campaign’s leaders, First Minister Alex Salmond and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, conceded defeat. Speaking just after 6 o’clock Friday morning, Salmond began by thanking Scotland for “1.6 million votes for independence,” and clarifying that “It is important to say that our referendum was an agreed and consented process and Scotland has by a majority decided not, at this stage, to become an independent country.“
While calling upon his fellow Scots to respect the verdict, his “at this stage” pointed all too clearly to a belief that a battle had been lost, but the war would go on. Everyone could see, he said, that “45%, that 1.6 million votes, is a substantial vote for Scottish independence and the future of this country.”
Of such support for independence, he said, “I don’t think any of us, whenever we entered politics, would have thought such a thing to be either credible or possible.”
One might wonder why Salmond has sought such a referendum if he had thought victory beyond his reach, but those with longer memories will recall that when negotiating with Prime Minister David Cameron about the referendum’s terms, he had originally sought a three-way ballot in which voters could choose between independence, the status quo, and enhanced devolution or “Devo Max.” Cameron rejected this, forcing a straight choice between independence and the status quo, but as opinion polls began to lean towards secession, former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown was delegated to tell wavering Scots that a No vote would in fact mean the very “Devo Max” Salmond seems to have originally wanted.
It is difficult to tell how much input politicians beyond Cameron’s inner circle had into this offer. On Friday morning, William Hague, Leader of the House of Commons and until recently Foreign Secretary, had no real answer when the BBC’s Andrew Neil pointedly asked him,“ Mr. Hague, when the Prime Minister outsourced constitutional reform to Gordon Brown during the campaign, was the Cabinet consulted?”
Given the apparent lack of consultation, it is hardly surprising that both Conservative and Labour backbenchers are uneasy with what this constitutional reform may involve, but they may have little choice but to go along with it, at least in terms of empowering Scotland. Salmond made this very clear in his acceptance speech, saying “the unionist parties made vows late in the campaign to devolve more powers to Scotland. Scotland will expect these to be honored in rapid course.“