After a night of intense drama, turmoil and emotion, the result of the Independence Referendum was finally announced. Despite a passionate campaign led by Alex Salmond and his SNP, the Scottish electorate finally decided against independence and delivered a convincing No verdict. Scotland has therefore decided to stay in the Union, a union that has survived for over three hundred years. The final result saw 55% of the electorate vote for No with 45% for Yes and therefore a win for the pro-Union camp. Slightly over two million voters elected to stay in the Union and 1.6 million voters wanted to go it alone. Despite recent opinion polls predicting a narrow win, in the end there was a victory by over 10% for the Better Together campaign, led by Alistair Darling. Indeed a final opinion poll held on the day by You Gov, who polled around 3000 members, proved to be a fairly accurate representation of the final result. The survey showed 54% for No and 46% for Yes. It has not always been that clear-cut. In the weeks leading up to the vote, the opinion polls narrowed, with some polls predicting a victory by the smallest of margins. Indeed, it was one of the polls that delivered one of the shocks of the whole process. On 7 September, a mere two weeks before the vote was due to take place, a poll by YouGov put the Yes campaign ahead for the first time. This result sent shockwaves through the establishment and forced the leaders of the three main parties along with Gordon Brown to campaign harder if they wanted to keep Scotalnd in the Union. The people of Scotland also realised that every vote was significant and, if they wanted their opinion to be heard, they knew that every vote would count. The result however was uncertain right up to the last moment and most of the Scottish electorate was in for a sleepless night, waiting with anticipation for results to come through in this historic vote. Owing to the importance of the outcome, the whole referendum debate energised the nation and people came out in unprecedented numbers. 97% of the electorate registered to vote, of which 84.6% cast their vote. A win for Better Together was finally confirmed when Fife declared their vote, mirroring the national feeling with 55% No and 45% Yes. This declaration took the pro-Union party past the target of 1.8 million votes to secure victory. The final outcome was not therefore dependent upon the last council to declare, the Highlands, and so by little after 6am, Scotland awoke to the news that its people had decided to remain as part of the UK. There were some significant victories for the Yes campaign, most notably in Dundee and Glasgow, but in the end only four councils returned a positive result for the pro-Independence camp. The other twenty-eight regions voted against and, in response to the question posed "Should Scotland be an independent country?" answered "No." The No campaign, rather than celebrate victory, could breathe a sigh of relief that they had secured Scotland in the Union for the foreseeable future, but under the condition that things would never again be the same. Late on in the campaign, a pledge signed by David Cameron, Ed Milliband and Nick Clegg promised more powers to be devolved to Scotland including more control over tax and welfare. It could be that this promise may have been significant in securing the vote for Scotland's people. Despite a significant 45% vote for the Yes campaign, Alex Salmond decided to resign his position as First Minister in the immediate aftermath of the result being announced. Although in the end it was a significant victory for the No camp, both sides can claim substantial success from the referendum process. Whilst independence has not been achieved, Scotland will now have considerable more powers, can still benefit from the stability of a common currency, pension system and defence force and can retain its EU membership. Another unqualified success has been the voting mandate being extended to 16 and 17 year old who have been really galvanised by being allowed to vote for the first, and most significant, time. The biggest victory however is for democracy. Scotland's people have decided on its future in a peaceful means through the ballot box, without there being any need to raise arms in anger. With a turn-out that most politicians would dream of, the whole independence debate has generated huge discussion up and down the country and the majority has spoken. It is now up to the UK #Government
to deliver on its promises. The question on what will be the future of Scotland will remain with us for some time yet.