Belfast Telegraph

Scottish independence: opponents react as count continues

First Minister Alex Salmond said Scotland's future was in Scotland's hands, as counting continued in the independence referendum.

With turnout expected to be extremely high, senior members of both the Yes and No camps were focusing on the historic nature of the vote.

Mr Salmond tweeted: "This has been a remarkable day. Scotland's future truly is in Scotland's hands."

Earlier, SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon hailed the ballot as "an amazing, emotional, inspirational day of democracy".

Labour's leader in Scotland Johann Lamont said that voters north of the border had cast "the most important votes of our lives".

Ms Lamont said: "Today the people of Scotland have cast the most important votes of our lives. Thank you to everyone who has worked for a No today."

And Ms Sturgeon tweeted: "So that's that. Polls have closed. What an amazing, emotional, inspirational day of democracy this has been. Now we wait."

Blair McDougall, the Better Together campaign director, welcomed the high turnout, which was widely predicted to top the 83.9% recorded in the 1950 general election - the highest in the UK since the introduction of universal suffrage in 1918.

Mr McDougall told Sky News he believed a No vote would be revealed over the course of the night.

He said: "I think there has been an extraordinary turnout tonight - near 100% turnout in some places.

"I think it's great for Scottish democracy, it could be great for Scotland. I think there will be a strong No vote and I think it will mean a better future for people in Scotland."

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael told Sky News: "It looks like we have a good turnout, that's important.

"It has been on the Yes side quite in your face and I have had people coming to me on the doorstep and in the streets saying, whispering almost, 'I'm voting No, I'm on your side'.

"But because the Yes campaign have been so in your face, and you have had some quite sinister points in this campaign - you had the 1,000 people trying to influence the BBC on Sunday night, you had Jim Sillars, one of the most senior people in their campaign talking about there being a day of reckoning.

"What we have got now is a timetable that makes it clear the extra powers we all know the Scottish Parliament needs to finish the process of devolution, which then unlocks the door to constitutional reform across the whole of the United Kingdom, will definitely be delivered."

The chairman of Yes Scotland said he was not conceding defeat, despite a YouGov survey suggesting that Scots have rejected independence by a margin of 54%-46%.

Former Labour MP Dennis Canavan told Sky News: "I'm still optimistic ... I'm not at this stage conceding the result."

Mr Canavan said it was "probably correct" that today's vote would settle the independence question for a lifetime.

He said while the Yes camp had fought a "very positive campaign, a magnificent campaign", the No message was characterised by "a bit of negative scaremongering going on, a bit of collaboration, perhaps even collusion, on the part of the British establishment".

Liberal Democrat MP for Gordon and No supporter Sir Malcolm Bruce said he believed that "reality has kicked in" with voters switching back to No after being briefly seduced by the Yes campaign's message.

Sir Malcolm said: "Certainly we felt that the campaign was swinging back to our side - if it ever really swung away to the extent that people suggested - both in terms of our canvassing and the responses we've been getting as people came out of the polling stations.

"I will be very well satisfied if the campaign to keep Scotland in the UK has succeeded. I believe it's in the best interests of Scotland and the UK that that should happen."

With two Scottish Nationalist parliamentarians - Angus MacNeil MP and Alasdair Allan MSP - the Western Isles is expected to have one of the largest turnouts in Scotland and to far exceed the General Election figure of 66.1 per cent in 2010, when there were five candidates.

Out of an electorate of 22,908, the turnout for postal votes including postal proxies was 5,125, which represents almost 90%.

Dr Allan, who led the Yes Camapign, said during the count: "It has been a closely fought campaign both nationally and in the Western Isles. We have fought a long and positive campaign against an absolute onslaught of fear-mongering by the UK Government and their friends in the national media. I hope the Western Isles will chose a better future for Scotland."

Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said in a tweet: "The people of Scotland have cast their votes. I sincerely hope that they remain a part of our family of nations."

Former Liberal leader Lord David Steel told Sky News: "Nearly half of Scotland is going to be disappointed with the result whichever way it goes.

"Therefore, there is an obligation on the politicians to take that into account and to be very mindful and sensitive to half the population who have not voted for the result.

"I think it is very important they don't just talk about greater powers for the Scottish Parliament, but they have got to talk to look and see how they reorganise the United Kingdom."

Michelle Thomson, managing director of the pro-independence Business for Scotland campaign, said the Yes campaign would respect the result of the ballot, even if it meant continued membership of the UK.

She told Sky News: "This is all about the settled will of the sovereign people of Scotland, and if that is what they express, then of course the wider Yes campaign will accept that. That's the whole point.

"Really, then the emphasis will be on Westminster to make good the promises they've made within the timetable they have set out.

"Certainly Scotland will move forward together, there will be a tomorrow, we will continue to be the best of friends."

At the count in Glasgow, Patricia Ferguson, Labour MSP for Maryhill and Springburn said: "I think it's exciting but nerve-wracking.

"It's been a very, very long campaign and today has already been a long day and it's not quite over yet.

"I think everyone will be glad to get the result and move on."

Former Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, the Lib Dem MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk, told Sky News: "In the last couple of weeks, the arguments about the NHS and other aspects of public services in Scotland which are fully devolved already became very serious parts of the campaign.

"If we are candid, I don't think at all times we were smart enough and quick enough to respond to those particular points.

"But there is a real desire it seems to me for change and the importance for all of us on the Better Together side is that the commitments we made in recent times, about further devolution to Scotland, if we stay part of the UK, those have to be delivered and quickly."

SNP national women's officer Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, a member of the Yes Scotland advisory board, said "Scotland has won" whatever the outcome.

"The polls have spoken but we will see what the people of Scotland have said," she said.

"We absolutely believe in the democratic will of the people of Scotland, and that will prevail, so I think we will just wait for the actual result when it comes through.

"What we are seeing is a massive engagement of people across the country, and I find that really refreshing.

"People coming up from 7am, unheard of queues at polling stations, so I think that says an awful lot.

"I think at the end of the day Scotland has won, without a doubt, whatever the outcome, simply because we have got so many people now interested in the future of this country."

Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords Jim Wallace said: "Never write Alex (Salmond) off... it's not for me to say what he should do.

"He'll have some hard thinking to do. I think he will be in a difficult position - he has led his troops to the top of the hill, it's difficult to march them down again."

Actress, comedian and Yes campaign advisory board member Elaine C Smith said of the referendum campaign: "People have something to vote for.

"The argument, the engagement, I love the fact that people in pubs are talking about what currency we're using and what we're going to do with the National Health Service, and not just going 'we'll leave it to those guys in suits'.

"I feel very grateful to be alive and to be part of this - even though I'm knackered."

Speaking at the Edinburgh count, Green MSP Alison Johnstone said: "I have been chatting to campaigners and activists on both sides - obviously there is a great deal of interest but there is a long night ahead.

"Obviously there was a YouGov exit poll earlier on, but we will wait and see. I think it is too early in the evening to say one way or the other.

"It is really exciting - the fact that the campaign has engaged so many people. It has got people who have never been involved in politics involved. It has been a successful campaign in those terms certainly."

There were also early appearances at Ingliston from Yes Scotland chairman Dennis Canavan, Lib Dem MP Sir Menzies Campbell, and fellow Lib Dem and Advocate General for Scotland Lord Wallace.

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