Scotland rejects independence from Britain     Follow

Voters in Scotland have rejected independence from Britain, opting to preserve a more than 300-year-old union in a referendum Thursday that sent shock waves through Europe and opened the door to continuing political tumult in Britain.

With turnout averaging 85% -- so closely watched that several pubs got special license to stay open all night as the returns came in — voters dealt a decisive blow to the controversial ballot measure that would have ended Scotland’s union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The independence measure was losing in all-but-final returns with 55% voting against independence, compared with 45% voting "yes."

The outcome was a blow to First Minister Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party, which pushed for the referendum when it won a majority in the Scottish regional parliament in 2011."Let us not dwell on the distance we have fallen short," Salmond said in a concession speech early Friday. "A movement is abroad in Scotland that will take this nation forward, and we shall go forward as one nation."

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called the projected result “a deep personal and political disappointment,” but told the BBC that “the country has been changed forever.”

Independence has been a long-cherished goal for Scottish nationalists. But while the result was not what they had hoped, Scotland in any case is still poised to wrest more powers from the central government in London. Hoping to win over disaffected Scots, the three main political parties in Britain promised last month to turn over more control over tax policy and public spending to the semiautonomous government in Edinburgh.

"Scotland will expect these [promises] to be honored in rapid force," Salmond said.

Thursday’s referendum sparked intense interest in Scotland, where an average about 84% of the 4.2 million registered voters cast ballots, one of the highest turnouts Scotland has ever recorded. They included 16- and 17-year-olds, who were allowed to vote for the first time.

Opinion polls showed a close race leading up to the ballot. Scotland’s pro-independence camp closed a gap of more than 20 percentage points in the campaign’s final months. (Los Angeles Times)

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