The Vote for Scottish Independence - September 2014
On 18 September people living in Scotland decided whether they wanted to stay within the Union of the United Kingdom or become an independent country.
As the polls closed it became clear very quickly that there were impressively high turnouts across Scotland. Regions voted between 80-90% in many areas. Glasgow had a disappointing turnout at 75% which speaks volumes.
It was a long campaign, on a highly emotive issue, with both sides working hard to get their message across. For the first time, the vote was extended to 16 and 17 year olds who were made eligible to vote. Many of them took the opportunity to decide on the future of where they live and this will prompt questions about inclusion in future elections.
The result by 5:00am on 19 September was being called for the No campaign with 55% to 45% rejecting the offer of independence. However, the margin of victory according to Scottish Nationalists showed that although Scotland did not want independence it did want change. Just prior to polling day an extension of powers to Scotland was raised by the Westminster parties. The repercussions of this have been set out in the Smith Commission's report. Read more.
After the referendum Alex Salmond announced he would be standing down as Leader of the Scottish Nationalist's and as First Minister of Scotland. He was replaced in an uncontested process by Nicola Sturgeon. Alistair Darling announced that he would be standing down from Parliament in 2015.
More about the Referendum
After much debate it was agreed there would be one question asked to be answered 'Yes' or 'No'.
Should Scotland be an independent country?
Oil Revenues - The No campaign stated that oil revenues were subject to volatility and a declining resource that should not be used to determine long-term liabilities such as pensions. The Yes campaign dismissed this and said there are plenty of supplies on oil, the revenue is static and there would be nothing to worry about.
Currency - The No campaign said there would be no currency union with the United Kingdom. This meant Scotland would be left to establish a central bank and banker of last resort. This meant uncertainty and risk. The Yes campaign believed that they would be able to keep the pound, despite protestations, using a mandate from the Scottish people. The 'Plan B' on the currency was been a big feature of the campaign with some analysts and voters left confused as to what would actually happen.
National Debt - The Yes campaign said that if there was no currency union then there was no debt. The No campaign said on the debt that Scotland had to take their fair share on the debt (approx 140 billion pounds) and this would leave the new fledgling country exposed.
NHS Spending - The Yes campaign said that they wanted control of the funding now to add to the operational control of the NHS. The no campaign said that people in Scotland benefited from the UK health service.
About the 'No' Campaign
Stars from stage and screen signed a letter asking Scotland to stay in the Union, and there were comments of support from the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Barack Obama, Sir Paul McCartney and the Pope.
The 'No Campaign' had a difficult time; making sure they did not talk Scotland down, and describing the positives of staying in the UK at the same time as showing an appetite for change and reform. The campaign often said that sometimes although you want to do something you have to admit that it isn't the right decision in the long term. They set this out on their website:
'What this means in practice is that we have all the amazing things that makes us Scotland and we also have the safety and security of being part of one of the biggest economies in the world.
We have our own Scottish Parliament making decisions about our health, education and emergency services and we get to share risks and rewards with the rest of the UK when it makes sense to do so.'
About the 'Yes' Campaign
The 'Yes' campaign was an alliance of the Scottish National Party, Scottish Green Party and Scottish Socialist Party and other affiliated groups. Their fundamental position was that decisions about Scotland are best placed to be made and should be made by people who care the most about Scotland; the Scottish people.
The TV Debates
A modern part of election campaigning, two TV debates were held about independence. The first controversially held on STV and the second on the BBC. The head to heads were between Alistair Darling, leading the No Campaign and Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland.
The first debate showed Darling as the winner as Salmond struggled to defend his position on the currency. The second debate was a bad-tempered affair and poorly moderated leading to a lot of shouting to be heard. Alex Salmond was declared the winner.