Scotland has spoken. After two years of campaigning, thousands of debates and public meetings, and the biggest turnout since the introduction of universal suffrage, Scots voted Thursday to reject independence and remain part of the United Kingdom.
By a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent on a massive turnout of 86 percent, Scotland decided not to become the world’s newest independent state. After a nervous final fortnight, the scale of the "no" campaign’s victory surprised even some of its own supporters.
Although Scotland as a nation voted "no," the "yes" side did come out on top in a number of electoral districts, including Glasgow. Despite long being a stronghold for the Labour party – which spearheaded the cross-party campaign against independence – Scotland’s largest city voted to leave the UK, by 54.5 percent to 46.5 percent.
On the streets of Glasgow, the mood was mixed this morning. For most of this week, George Square, the main public space in the city center, had played host to huge gatherings of thousands of yes supporters waving blue-and-white-crossed saltires and singing “Flower of Scotland.” Today, only a core of a dozen or so activists remained.
“I’m disappointed. I thought more of Scotland would have said 'yes.' I’m really upset with what can I do,” said Martin Goodfellow as he waved a giant saltire, the Scottish flag.
In a sign of the general good temper with which the Scottish independence debate was conducted, the other end of Mr. Goodfellow’s standard was held up by his friend – and "no" voter – Adam Robinson.
“If it was a 'yes' vote, it would have been nice to be an independent country, but a 'no' vote means economic certainty,’ said Mr. Robinson.
Many in the UK – and internationally – were relieved to see Scots reject independence, fearing the political and financial impact of Scotland leaving the UK. Among them was Scottish businessman David Shaw.
“I feel very relieved,” Mr. Shaw said as he drank a pre-work coffee in Glasgow city center this morning. “Certain companies that invested in Scotland were going to pull out [if it had been a yes] which would have effected my business and my family life,” Mr Shaw said.
“I’d like to see peace and tranquility between the two parties and for them to work together to move on to make Scotland better in the future.”
'The will of the Scottish people'
Accepting defeat in the early hours of Friday morning, Alex Salmond, Scottish National Party leader and Scotland’s first minister, said that the referendum had been “a triumph for the democratic process.”
“We have touched sections of the community who have never before been touched by politics – these sections of the community have touched us and touched the political process," said Mr. Salmond of a campaign that caught the imagination of millions in Scotland, and across the UK.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “delighted with the result.”
"The people of Scotland have spoken. It is a clear result. They have kept our country of four nations together," Mr. Cameron said. "Now the debate has been settled for a generation, or as Alex Salmond has said: 'Perhaps for a lifetime.' So there can be no disputes, no reruns; we have heard the will of the Scottish people."