POLITICS

Scottish Referendum Called An 'Inspirational Day Of Democracy' With Huge Turnout Predicted

19/09/2014 00:20 BST | Updated 19/09/2014 01:59 BST

As counting of votes began in the Scottish independence referendum, SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon hailed the ballot as "an amazing, emotional, inspirational day of democracy". With turnout expected to be extremely high, Labour's leader in Scotland Johann Lamont said that voters north of the border had cast "the most important votes of our lives".

The result was viewed as too close to call, and senior members of the Yes and No camps were focusing on the historic nature of the vote as they made their first comments on Twitter. 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.

"There has been the biggest super-poll in Scottish political history today with probably the biggest turnout in recent political history. Let's see what happens - I think we will win, I think we will win the hearts and minds of Scots when the votes are counted because we are offering what people wanted, that sense of connection but also the security of being part of something bigger."

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 that 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".

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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. I think the agenda put forward by the Yes campaign is scary. To suggest we build a new state with no bank, no reserves, no currency and no visible means of financial support, in my view was totally irresponsible, but it was very plausible, it was very attractive to people who wanted to believe it. They were drawn into it by this positivity, but in the end reality I think has kicked in."

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."

Alasdair Morrison, the former Labour MSP for the Western Isles, said: "Our No Campaign was vigorous and energetic. It was great for people to communicate throughout the length and breadth of the isles. While debate was always robust in the isles and courtesy extended in election campaigns, there was a major departure in this campaign where people were being sworn at in Stornoway and our posters vandalised."

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. We have to take into account what has happened here in Scotland. There are stirrings in Wales, there are stirrings in Cornwall, the people are very concerned about getting government closer to themselves. I think that is a good thing and I think we have to take that really seriously into account.

"Provided the party leaders do what they said they would do, and that's a tall order... then I think it will take away the demand for independence so long as people can see you can have a self-governing Scotland remaining within the UK."

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. Ms Thomson 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."

Scottish Referendum