After a day of voting on Thursday, Scotland rejected the opportunity to become independent from the United Kingdom.
A strong majority of ‘No’ votes in response to the question “Should Scotland become an independent country?” meant months of tireless campaigning by the ‘Yes’ camp came to a disappointing end.
In a record turnout of 85 per cent of Scottish residents, 2,001,926 voted ‘No’, winning with a majority of 55.3 per cent. An amazing 1,617,989 voted in favour of independence.
At 6:08am local time on Friday morning the results for the constituency of Fife were announced, giving the number of ‘No’ votes an unassailable lead. Out of 32 constituencies only Dundee City, West Dunbartonshire, Glasgow and North Lanarkshire had a ‘Yes’ majority.
In a dignified address the First Minister for Scotland and independence activist, Alex Salmond, announced his resignation shortly after, heralding a new era for Scotland: “The real guardians of power are the tens of thousands of energised activists who will refuse to meekly go back into the political shadows. The country will benefit from new leadership in a situation redolent with possibility.”
“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 added.
Scotland will wonder whether David Cameron keeps his promises. Over one and a half million voters have expressed their wish to be separated from the United Kingdom – this is a statement that the Prime Minister simply cannot ignore. Speaking outside 10 Downing Street he expressed his desire, “to move the UK forward” reflecting an optimism that perhaps much of Scotland does not share.
Media images filtered through early Friday of disconsolate figures under their Saint Andrew’s flags turned comfort blankets; many Scots were out on the streets all night to hear the results and celebrate an historic day. However, for the ‘Yes ‘voters a night of passion and excitement ended in a bitter anti-climax. How long until Scotland gets such a golden opportunity again and by then how will attitudes have changed?
Nonetheless, the entire chapter has been an inspiration for political activism around the world. The 1.6 million votes the ‘Yes’ campaign received was the culmination of massive growth from its grass roots, community-based origins. Stuart Braithwaite, musician and vocal advocate, commented on Twitter, “after the Iraq War I never thought I’d see activism like it again”.
In the run-up to the referendum the ‘No’ campaign benefited from some hefty media and political bias in favour of a movement that was, a lot of the time, run on antagonism and point scoring.
Scottish tennis player Andy Murray had been coy about his allegiance in the run up to the vote until Wednesday when he tweeted “Huge day for Scotland today! The No campaign negativity last few days totally swayed my view on it. Excited to see the outcome. Let’s do this!”
Any hostility from either campaign was a big mistake serving only to exacerbate tensions; as I write rival supporters in the centre of Glasgow are being separated by police.
On Friday the Queen said she believed Scotland would unite in a “spirit of mutual respect and support”. I sincerely hope so and trust Scotland can move forward both individually and as part of the union. The referendum has kept the kingdom united, but hopefully not divided Scotland in the process.