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Society, Politics & Law

The 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum - Result

Updated Monday 2nd March 2015

What did the results of the Scottish Independence Referendum mean for the current British constitutional set-up?

new apartment blocks on River Clyde, Glasgow Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Hilary Mooney In Glasgow, voters clearly stated their desire to no longer be part of the UK.
55.3% of the voting population, 2,001,926 people voted in favour of keeping Scotland within the UK. That is they voted NO to Independence. 1,617,989 voted YES, 44.7% of those eligible to vote.  Women tended to vote No more than men, varying between 3% and 9% depending on the area. The higher proportion of women in the older population groups also relates to the much higher incidence of NO voting among those aged 65 and over.
 
While there is no doubt that the NO campaign secured a clear victory, with a result that was wider than the NO camp had feared only days before and larger than the YES camp anticipated, nonetheless that some 1.6m people voted for Scottish Independence is a truly astonishing outcome. Few would have predicted a 45% vote in favour of Independence over the two year period before the Referendum! Most of the opinion polls during this time showed support for Independence running between 30% and 39% and only on two occasions did it go above 40%.
 
In the months before the Referendum, the NO campaign could take comfort from figures that suggested it had gained the support of around two thirds of all voters. To highlight one poll conducted for STV News in early March 2014, NO was on 57%, YES on 32% and don’t knows on 11%. This was not out of line with other polls during this period.
 
Therefore the vote for Independence is an outstanding achievement for the YES campaign, more so if it is remembered that it is only a matter of a generation or so since the SNP was widely dismissed as ‘Braveheart nationalists’ or, by the Labour Party and others on the Left as  ‘Tartan Tories’.  Many voters aged 40 and over grew up in an era when the SNP were on the margins of Scottish Politics, only registering the occasional flurry in elections.
 
The transformation in Scotland’s political environment over recent decades has been remarkable. The SNP has come from virtually nowhere to first of all, to form a minority Scottish Government following the May 2007 Scottish Elections, the first national Scotland-wide election that the Labour Party had lost in over 50 years. It went a stage further in the 2011 Scottish Parliament Elections to form a majority Scottish Government.
 
This is itself marked a monumental shift in Scottish politics. Labour’s huge defeat, even losing seats in its West of Scotland heartlands, was one marker of this but that the entire Devolution Settlement of 1998, marked not least by the introduction of proportional representation, was designed to prevent any one party from forming a majority government provides another signal of the extent of the political change that the 2011 Scottish Elections symbolised. And lest it is forgotten, under Tony Blair and New Labour, devolution for Scotland was primarily viewed, in the words of former Labour Minister and MP George Robertson, as effectively ‘killing Scottish nationalism stone dead’.  How wrong such as claim would soon prove to be.
 
In the 2014 Referendum, not far from half of all voters in Scotland – 45% - expressed their view that they no longer wished to remain in the UK, preferring instead a fully Independent Scotland. In Glasgow, once ‘the second city’ of the British Empire, voters clearly stated their desire to no longer be part of the UK. While the YES vote only obtained an outright majority in four local authority areas, it constituted a substantial minority (never less than 30%) in many other council areas. Arguably had it not been for well publicised fears that economically Scotland would be worse off with Independence, as well as the bribes offered in the last week of the campaign by a panicked Westminster elite – aided by the Scottish Labour Party – suddenly terrified of losing Scotland, it is highly likely that that figure would have been even higher.
 
This hardly represents a vote of confidence, then, in the current British constitutional set-up. In this respect then it would be absolutely wrong to suggest that Scottish Independence was decisively defeated. The Scottish Independence Referendum represented the greatest threat to the UK state for almost 300 years.
 
This article is part of a series of articles on the 2014 Scottish Referendum.

 

 

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