, EDINBURGH, Scotland, Sept 19 – Scotland has rejected independence in a referendum that leaves the United Kingdom intact but opens the door to wider autonomy following a huge turnout, preliminary results showed Friday.
The “No” camp was ahead by 55.42 percent to 44.58 percent for the “Yes” camp with 31 out of 32 local areas counted.
“No” campaigners across Scotland cheered as the results came in, while “Yes” activists watched dejected and in tears.
The outcome dashes the hopes of the hundreds of thousands of Scots who voted to break away on Thursday in an unprecedented vote that ignited debate about governance in Britain but will reassure those worried about the economic risks of a break-up.
The financial markets rewarded the result with the pound rising against the dollar on the currency markets.
“We know that there’s going to be a majority for the ‘No’ campaign,” pro-independence First Minister Alex Salmond said in Edinburgh.
“Scotland has by majority decided not, at this stage, to become an independent country,” he said.
The result is a blow to the ambitions of a political lifetime for Salmond, although the strong result for the “Yes” leaves open the possibility of another bid for independence in future.
– ‘Well-fought campaign’ –
There were some big wins for the “Yes” campaign, including Sturgeon’s home city of Glasgow, but the margin was not enough to mitigate a flood of “No” votes across Scotland.
The indication was that better-off and rural areas had voted “No” while urban centres and poorer parts voted “Yes”.
The “Yes” camp had been behind by a huge margin for months but in the past fortnight enjoyed a surge in support in the opinion polls. In the end, it did not materialise.
“Clearly the ‘No’ side has won,” said polling expert John Curtice, a professor of politics at Strathclyde University.
The vote would have brought to an abrupt end a union with England stretching back to 1707 and has been closely watched around the world, giving heart to separatist movements from Catalonia in Spain to Quebec in Canada.