Scotland has voted against becoming an independent country, following a referendum held on Thursday. With over 3.6 million votes cast – a turnout of 84.6% – the ‘No’ campaign prevailed by a double-digit margin of 55.3% to 44.7%. The margin of victory was higher than expected, especially given the surge towards ‘Yes’ in opinion polls in the run up to the referendum.
Prime Minister David Cameron gave a statement shortly after the outcome was declared, in which he announced that plans were to be drawn up for a greater devolution of powers to all four nations in the UK.
As promised by the three main parties prior to the referendum, Cameron announced Scotland will receive greater devolution powers with regards to tax, spending and welfare. Lord Smith of Kelvin will oversee the process, with the detail of the proposals set to be agreed by November, with draft legislation being published by January 2015.
Cameron added that similar proposals will be developed for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, within the same timeframe. Although there are many details still to be decided, there is the potential for Scottish MPs to be barred from voting on issues that only affect England, with the intention for this to eventually apply to Welsh and Northern Irish MPs.
To work towards these new arrangements, Cameron announced that William Hague, Leader of the House of Commons, has been assigned to set up a cross-party Cabinet Committee to draw up the proposals. He added that he hoped that these proposals would be agreed by November, with draft legislation being published by January 2015.
Little specific information was revealed about plans for Wales and Northern Ireland, with Cameron stating that more power will be given to the Welsh Government and Welsh Assembly, and that work needed to be done in Northern Ireland to ensure that devolved institutions function effectively.