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With Record Turnout In Referendum, Scotland Votes No

In a close race, Scotland decides to stay a part of the United Kingdom

(Gail Orenstein/NurPhoto/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Scotland has made its final decision in the independence referendum, with a record-breaking 84.5 percent turnout. In the end, the popular vote was neck and neck, with 55 percent voting "No" and 45 percent for "Yes." That percentage was reflected in the vast majority of Scotland's 32 councils, 28 of which voted No. 

There were a few hiccups, including several people who voted for both yes and no, a traffic accident that delayed vote counting in the Highlands and a few cases of alleged electoral fraud in Glasgow.

So what happens now? In the short term, nothing much will change. Scotland will remain a part of the United Kingdom, as it has been for more than three hundred years

Pro-union political groups made last minute promises of more powers to Scotland in advance of the election, but as the BBC’s James Landale reported:

The leaders of the three largest UK parties have promised that the Scots would get more powers over their taxes, welfare and spending.

They hope to agree the details by November and publish draft legislation in January. But it would not be easy, not least because the parties disagree over detail.

Take taxation. The Conservatives say Holyrood should be able to set income tax rates and bands, with just the tax-free personal allowance decided by Westminster.

Labour says Scotland should be able to vary income tax only by 15 pence in the pound.

The Lib Dems believe the Scottish government should be able to fix not only income tax but also capital gains, inheritance and a whole range of other taxes. Somehow these differences would need to be hammered out - and soon..

In order to get everything figured out with any speed, the political parties need to agree with each other, get their parties to agree internally and then also get the Scottish Parliament to agree on the plan for devolved powers. 

In a speech after almost all of the areas reported (Highland’s results came in later), First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond said he accepted the verdict but also said that he expected the promises made by pro-union groups to be honored rapidly. 

Salmond and other "Yes" campaigners have also emphasized the close results: 1.6 million people voted for independence, many of whom were not usually active in politics. Early analysis of the results by the BBC over the course of the night indicated that the few areas that eked out a "Yes" win were more likely to be areas of higher unemployment. As indicated by the powers that were promised to Scotland, inequality, poverty and unemployment were huge issues in this election, and those concerns aren’t going to disappear, even with a "No" result. 

Salmond told the crowd in Edinburgh: "We have touched sections of the community who have never been touched before by politics. These communities have touched us... I don't think that will ever be allowed to go back to business as usual in politics again."

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