Prime Minister David Cameron has today said the Scottish electorate’s rejection of independence has settled the issue “for a generation... perhaps for a lifetime”.
The no vote won by a margin of around 55 per cent to 45 per cent following yesterday’s referendum.
Speaking outside 10 Downing Street shortly after the No vote became a mathematical certainty, Mr Cameron said he would ensure that commitments to further devolution to Scotland made during the campaign would be “honoured in full”, announcing the appointment of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games supremo Lord Smith to oversee the drafting of proposals in legislation published by January.
Earlier, Scottish National Party First Minister Alex Salmond acknowledged that his long-cherished dream of leading his nation to independence was over, telling supporters in Edinburgh: “Scotland has by a majority decided not at this stage to become an independent country.
“I accept that verdict of the people and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland.”
In a dramatic announcement, Mr Cameron also announced plans to devolve powers in other parts of the United Kingdom.
“It is time for our United Kingdom to come together and to move forward,” said the PM. “A vital part of that will be a balanced settlement fair to people in Scotland and importantly to everyone in England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well.”
In a clear warning to nationalists that it would be wrong to seek to revive the independence debate after a vote which engaged more than 80% of the Scottish electorate, Mr Cameron said: “There can be no debates, no re-runs. We have heard the settled will of the Scottish people.”
And he added: “The people of Scotland have spoken and it is a clear result. They have kept our country of four nations together and, like millions of other people, I am delighted.
“As I said during the campaign, it would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end and I know that sentiment is shared by people not just across our country but also around the world.”
In a dramatic night of counting after Scotland went to the polls yesterday, the Yes campaign secured majorities in largest city Glasgow as well as stronghold Dundee, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire, but fell short in key targets like Clackmannanshire and Western Isles, while the No campaign enjoyed a comfortable advantage in capital Edinburgh.
With only the Highlands left to declare, No had assembled an unassailable total of 1,914,187 votes (55.42%), with Yes trailing on 1,539,920 (44.58%).
The referendum was on track to set a new record for turnout in any major election in the United Kingdom since the introduction of universal suffrage in 1918, with 84.4% of registered voters casting a ballot - narrowly beating the 83.9% previous best recorded in the 1950 general election.