Scottish voters turned out in record numbers Thursday to deliver a vote to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he will follow through on promises to grant the Scots greater autonomy. (Sept. 19) AP
Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)
00:01 As the sun rose over Scotland Friday the United Kingdom
00:04 remained — But no vote for Scottish independence one under an
00:09 unprecedented turnout both sides hailing the vote as a triumph of
00:13 democracy. I think they — the process by which we have
00:17 made up of decision as a nation. Reflects enormous credit upon
00:22 Scotland. So now it is time Ali United Kingdom. To come
00:27 together. And to move forward despite the loss for some 45%
00:31 of voters were pro independence and that’s significant and millions of
00:36 people and the lights. Recognizing a — for greater autonomy British
00:41 prime minister David Cameron said Friday he will follow through. On
00:45 promises to grants — with the additional powers to Levy taxes
00:48 and spend money. Camera hinting at plans for similar steps to
00:52 be taken across the country is actually be right but he
00:55 knew that settlement the — Should be accompanied by a new
00:59 and that settlement that applies to all parts of — United
01:03 Kingdom. Just months ago — vote for independence seemed a long
01:07 shot for Scotland. On an unlikely surge of support may end
01:11 — bringing change to all citizens of the UK. Robert –
01:15 Associated Press.
EDINBURGH — Scotland renewed its 307-year-old vow with the United Kingdom on Friday, but new autonomy is the price England must pay for keeping the marriage.
Voters rejected a referendum on independence from the United Kingdom by a comfortable margin of 55% to 45%. British Prime Minister David Cameron helped ensure that outcome by promising the central government in London — one of the most powerful among Western nations — would hand over more power to Edinburgh if voters chose to stay in the union.
The question now is how quickly Cameron will deliver on those promises which include significantly enhanced control over spending and taxation amounting to a version of home rule in all matters of state save for certain key areas such as defense and monetary policy.
The outcome is likely to provide new job security for Cameron, who avoided going down in history as the prime minister who lost Scotland. The vote had threatened to upend the U.K.’s relationships with key international organizations such as the European Union and NATO and inject fresh uncertainty into global financial markets at a time when world economies are in the midst of fragile recoveries.
However, the pledge also effectively opens the door to the other members of the U.K. who may now seek additional legislative capabilities to manage their own affairs.
“The failure to produce a Yes verdict on this vote is in some ways much more complicated for the U.K. internally than a No because Scotland now has to be given much more constitutional freedom,” said Tony Travers, a professor of government at the London School of Economics.
That in turn raises the possibility that Wales, Northern Ireland and, crucially, England, will agitate for more local law-making powers, Travers added.
That prospect was not lost on Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond, who during his concession speech Friday said: “Scotland will expect these (unionist pledges) to be honored in rapid course — as a reminder, we have been promised a second reading of a Scotland bill by March 27 next year.”
In his own remarks Friday morning from London, Cameron reiterated his intention to see that “those commitments are honored.” Cameron also said he was aware that other members of the U.K. deserve a larger say over their own affairs.
“This result does definitely not mean business as usual for the U.K.,” said Matt Beech, an expert on British politics at the University of Hull. “We are going to see an incredibly beefed up Scottish Parliament that really takes very little direction from Westminster.”
In Edinburgh on Friday the de facto offer of a deal that will further empower Scottish lawmakers was not a sufficient salve to soothe those who had been holding out for full sovereignty.
“There’s going to be a period of mourning,” said Ross Colquhoun, co-founder of National Collective, a group of artists and activists that spent over two years campaigning to make Scotland the 31st country to emerge on the world stage since WWII.
“We’re going to try to make sure that people are still engaged with this issue but it’s going to be a much tougher challenge,” he said.
Cameron has been under considerable pressure to deflect the challenge to the U.K.’s constitutional authority. He may find a temporary reprieve in a part of his portfolio not typically associated with peace and quiet: the British Armed Forces.
“It’s unlikely that much in the military will change with a No vote,” said Malcolm Chambers, a defense and security expert at the Royal United Services Institute, a think tank.
“If another independence vote proves to be a possibility that could change though,” he added.
Voters in Scotland have rejected independence from Britain, opting to preserve a more than 300-year-old union in a referendum Thursday that sent shock waves through Europe and opened the door to continuing political tumult in Britain.
With turnout about 85% — so closely watched that many pubs got special license to stay open all night as the returns came in — voters dealt a decisive blow to the controversial ballot measure that would have ended Scotland’s union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The independence measure was losing Friday in all-but-final returns, with 55% against independence and 45% voting “yes.”
The outcome was a blow to First Minister Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party, which pushed for the referendum when it won a majority in the Scottish regional parliament in 2011.
“Let us not dwell on the distance we have fallen short,” Salmond said in a concession speech early Friday. “A movement is abroad in Scotland that will take this nation forward, and we shall go forward as one nation.”
He thanked the more than 1.5 million Scots who voted for independence, saying, “This has been a triumph for the democratic process and for participation in politics.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who had staked much of his political capital on holding the union together, was visibly relieved at the outcome.
“It would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end,” he said Friday in an address outside his office on Downing Street in London. “Now the debate has been settled for a generation….There can be no disputes, no reruns. We have heard the settled will of the Scottish people.”
He paid tribute to the pro-independence camp for a well-fought campaign. “Now is the time for our United Kingdom to come together and to move forward,” he said.
Independence has been a long-cherished goal for Scottish nationalists. But though the result was not what they had hoped for, Scotland is still poised to wrest more powers from the central government in London. Hoping to win over disaffected Scots, the three main political parties in Britain promised last month to turn over more control over tax policy and public spending to the semiautonomous government in Edinburgh.
“Scotland will expect these [promises] to be honored in rapid force,” Salmond said.
Cameron pledged to make good on those promises, but also said that voters in the rest of Britain would be given a similar opportunity for increased self-determination.
“Just as the people of Scotland will have more power over their affairs, so it follows that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland will have a bigger say over theirs,” he said. “We now have a chance, a great opportunity, to change the way the British people are governed and change it for the better.”
Thursday’s referendum sparked intense interest, and the turnout was one of the highest Scotland has ever recorded. It included 16- and 17-year-olds, who were allowed to vote for the first time.
Opinion polls showed a close race leading up to the balloting. Scotland’s pro-independence camp closed a gap of more than 20 percentage points in the campaign’s final months.
But Scotland’s pro-union “Better Together” campaign focused voters’ attention on the risks of independence. Much of the debate centered on economic concerns, such as how long Scotland could depend on tax revenue from dwindling oil and gas reserves in the North Sea and questions over what currency an independent Scotland would use.
Nationalists said they wanted to keep the British pound, but the government in London consistently ruled out a currency union if voters chose to break from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
John Curtice, a political scientist at Scotland’s University of Strathclyde, said the “no” vote means the rest of Britain can breathe a sigh of relief.
“Awkward issues, such as what do we do with our nuclear weapons facility, don’t have to be faced,” Curtice said. “The potential damage to the UK’s prestige … is removed.”
Britain has a fleet of nuclear-armed submarines based 25 miles downriver from Glasgow. Salmond and his party had vowed to make Scotland free of nuclear weapons within four years of independence, and the British government could have been faced with the costly task of relocating its Trident naval base.
From the capital of Edinburgh to the far-flung Shetland Islands, Scots embraced a historic moment — and the rest of the United Kingdom held its breath — after voters turned out in unprecedented numbers for an independence referendum that could end the country’s 307-year union with England.
After the polls closed late Thursday, many Scots settled in to stay up all night in homes and bars, awaiting the result that could change their lives, shake financial markets worldwide and boost other independence movements from Flanders to Catalonia to Quebec.
A nationwide count began immediately at 32 regional centers across Scotland. At Highland Hall outside of Edinburgh, where the final result will be announced sometime after 0500GMT (1 a.m. EDT) Friday, vote-counters at dozens of tables sorted through paper ballots, watched keenly by monitors from the Yes and No camps.
The first numbers released early Friday were turnout totals for two regions — 84 percent and 89 percent — suggesting that the number of voters could hit a record high.
Eager voters had lined up outside some polling stations even before they opened Thursday. More than 4.2 million people had registered to vote — 97 percent of those eligible — including residents as young as 16.
For some, it was a day they had dreamed of for decades. For others, the time had finally come to make up their minds about the future — both for themselves and for the United Kingdom.
“Fifty years I fought for this,” said 83-year-old Isabelle Smith, a Yes supporter in Edinburgh’s maritime district of Newhaven, a former fishing port. “And we are going to win. I can feel it in my bones.”
The question on the ballot could not be simpler: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
Yet it has divided Scots during months of campaigning, generating an unprecedented volume and intensity of public debate and participation. The Yes side, in particular, has energized young people and previously disillusioned working-class voters.
Polls suggest the result was too close to call. A final Ipsos MORI poll released Thursday put support for the No side at 53 percent and Yes at 47 percent. The phone survey of 991 people has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Many questions — the currency an independent Scotland would use, its status within the 28-nation European Union and NATO, the fate of Britain’s nuclear-armed submarines, based at a Scottish port — remain uncertain or disputed after months of campaigning.
One thing was known: A Yes vote would trigger 18 months of negotiations between Scottish leaders and London-based politicians on how the two countries would separate their institutions before Scotland’s planned Independence Day on March 24, 2016.
For Smith, who went to the polling station decked out in a blue-and-white pro-independence shirt and rosette, statehood for Scotland was a dream nurtured during three decades living in the U.S. with her late husband.
“The one thing America has that the Scots don’t have is confidence,” said Smith, who returned to Scotland years ago. “But they’re getting it, they’re walking tall.”
After polls closed, some No campaigners said they were confident they had swayed enough undecided voters to stave off independence. They may have been helped by a last-minute offer from Britain’s main political parties for more powers for Scotland if they reject secession.
Yes campaigners insisted Scots would not allow a return to the status quo, even if the independence bid failed.
“Whatever happens, Scotland is going to be different,” said Luke Campbell, a member of the Radical Independence Movement. “People aren’t going to go back to their sofas after this.”
After weeks in which the British media talked of little else, the television airwaves were almost a referendum-free zone Thursday due to electoral rules. On the streets, it was a different story, with rival Yes and No billboards and campaigners outside many polling places.
At one Edinburgh polling station, Thomas Roberts said he had voted Yes because he felt optimistic about Scotland’s future as an independent country. He was looking forward to learning the outcome from the warm confines of a pub.
“Why not roll the dice for once?” he asked. “I’m going to sit with a beer in my hand watching the results coming in.”
But some No supporters said the pro-independence campaign had fueled bad feeling among neighbors.
“The country is divided with a hatchet. It’s so awful — and it was completely unnecessary,” said Fiona Mitchell, distributing No leaflets outside a polling station.
If the Yes side prevails, First Minister Alex Salmond will have realized a long-held dream of leading his country to independence from an alliance with England that was formed in 1707.
“This is our opportunity of a lifetime and we must seize it with both hands,” Salmond said in his final pre-vote speech.
Pro-independence forces got a last-minute boost Thursday from tennis star Andy Murray, who signaled his support of the Yes campaign in a tweet to his 2.7 million followers.
Anti-independence leaders, including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, himself a Scot, have implored Scots not to break their links with the rest of the United Kingdom and have stressed the economic uncertainties that independence would bring. There have been fierce disputes over whether an independent Scotland could use the pound and several companies have said they would move their headquarters from Scotland to England if the Yes vote prevails.
Many Yes supporters were heading to symbolic spots like Calton Hill overlooking Edinburgh — hoping the sun would rise Friday on a new dawn of independence and not just a hangover.
But financial consultant Michael MacPhee, a No voter, said he would observe the returns coming in “with anxiety.”
Scottish independence is “the daftest idea I’ve ever heard,” he said.
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A British photographer reported to have been kidnapped along with slain American journalist James Foley and held captive for two years purportedly appears in a YouTube video released on Thursday.
The video, which is different from previous recordings that showed the beheadings of Foley and two other Westerners, shows John Cantlie at a table before a black background and does not include any violent acts.
In it, Cantlie says he is a prisoner and that he was captured in November 2012, the same month Foley disappeared in Syria. Cantlie says he feels “abandoned” by his government, and that he has “nothing to lose” by participating.
“I’m going to show you the truth as the Western media tries to drag the public back to the abyss of another war with the Islamic State,” Cantlie says, questioning why his government “appears so keen to get involved in yet another unwinnable conflict.”
Cantlie also criticizes the approach of the U.S. and British governments in hostage negotiations, saying other European nations have successfully negotiated for the release of their citizens. “They negotiated with the Islamic State and got their people home, while the British and Americans were left behind,” he says.
YouTube removed the video Thursday morning, saying it violated the company’s policy on violence.
The video, addressed to the Western public, came after a number of nations have ramped up discussion about rooting out the Islamic State, including a vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday in favor of arming Syrian rebels fighting the militants.
Cantlie, who according to McClatchy news service has been the subject of a media blackout for the last two years, was previously captured in Syria and released after a week before returning.
He was the only person to appear on camera and was wearing bright orange garb similar to the clothing Foley, American journalist Stephen Sotloff and British aid worker David Haines wore before they were killed.
In the YouTube clip, Cantlie said the video, which carried Thursday’s date and was titled “Lend Me Your Ears,” was the first in what will be a series of “programs” that will show “the truth” behind the motivations of the Islamic State and “convey some facts” that might “help in preserving lives.”
“There are two sides to every story,” the photographer says. “I think you may be surprised by what you learn.”
SYDNEY: Police on Thursday said they thwarted a plot to carry out beheadings in Australia by supporters of the radical Islamic State group. They raided more than a dozen properties across Sydney and were holding six people and have identified the suspected ringleader, officials said.
Nine other people were detained but were freed before the day was over.
The raids involving 800 federal and state police officers — the largest in the country’s history — came in response to intelligence that an Islamic State group leader in the Middle East was calling on Australian supporters to kill, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.
Abbott was asked about reports that the detainees were planning to behead a random person in Sydney.
“That’s the intelligence we received,” he told reporters. “The exhortations — quite direct exhortations — were coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in ISIL to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country.”
ISIL refers to the al-Qaida splinter group leading Sunni militants in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which now calls itself simply Islamic State.
“This is not just suspicion, this is intent and that’s why the police and security agencies decided to act in the way they have,” Abbott said.
New South Wales police did not say why nine of the detained people were released, or whether they would face charges later.
The raids came just days after the country raised its terrorism threat to the second-highest level in response to the domestic threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State group. At the time, Abbott stressed that there was no information suggesting a terror attack was imminent.
Later Thursday, Attorney General George Brandis confirmed that a person born in Afghanistan who had spent time in Australia and is now working with the Islamic State group in the Middle East ordered supporters in Australia to behead people and videotape the killings.
“If the … police had not acted today, there is a likelihood that this would have happened,” Brandis told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Abbott and Brandis did not name the Australian. But Mohammad Ali Baryalei, who is believed to be Australia’s most senior member of the Islamic State group, was named as a co-conspirator in court documents filed Thursday. Police have issued an arrest warrant for Baryalei, a 33-year-old former Sydney nightclub bouncer.
One of those detained, 22-year-old Omarjan Azari of Sydney, appeared briefly in a Sydney court on Thursday.
Prosecutor Michael Allnutt said Azari was involved in a plan to “gruesomely” kill a randomly selected person — something that was “clearly designed to shock and horrify” the public. That plan involved an “unusual level of fanaticism,” he said.
Azari is charged with conspiracy to prepare for a terrorist attack. The potential penalty was not immediately clear.
In court documents, Azari is accused of conspiring with Baryalei and others between May and September to prepare for a terrorist attack. Allnutt said the charge stemmed from the interception of a phone call a couple of days ago.
Azari did not apply for bail and did not enter a plea. His next court appearance was set for Nov. 13.
His attorney, Steve Boland, said during the hearing that the allegation against his client was based “on one phone call.” He did not speak to reporters outside court.
Dozens of police spent Thursday searching Azari’s home and a car parked across the street from his house. One officer pulled a memo out of the car from the Australian National Imams Council outlining concerns about Australia’s new anti-terrorism proposals.
The council did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. On its website, it says proposals to expand government surveillance powers would invade privacy. It also denounces the Islamic State group, saying there “is nothing Islamic about their murderous actions.”
A second man was charged Thursday night in connection with the raids. The 24-year-old, whom police didn’t name, was charged with possessing ammunition without a license and unauthorized possession of a prohibited weapon. He was released on bail and ordered to appear in court next week.
The Australian Security Intelligence Organization’s director-general, David Irvine, said the threat of terrorism in the country has been rising over the past year, mainly due to Australians joining the Islamic State movement to fight in Syria and Iraq.
Some terrorism experts question, however, whether the extremist group has the capacity to organize a major terror campaign in Australia, far from its base.
Police declined to reveal exact details of the attack they believe was being plotted. New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said only that it was to be carried out against a member of the public on the street and was at “a very high level.”
“Right now is a time for calm,” Scipione said. “We need to let people know that they are safe, and certainly from our perspective, we know that the work this morning will ensure that all of those plans that may have been on foot have been thwarted.”
A separate series of raids was conducted Thursday in the eastern cities of Brisbane and Logan. Last week, Australian police arrested two men in Brisbane for allegedly preparing to fight in Syria, recruiting jihadists and raising money for the al-Qaida offshoot group Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the Nusra Front.
Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Andrew Colvin said the raids conducted in Brisbane on Thursday were a follow-up to that operation. Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said the operations in Sydney and Brisbane were linked, but declined to release details.
Police said at the time there was no terrorist threat to the Group of 20 leaders’ summit to be hosted by Brisbane in November that will bring President Barack Obama and other leaders of the world’s 20 biggest economies to the Queensland state capital.
Australia has estimated that about 60 of its citizens are fighting for the Islamic State group and the Nusra Front in Iraq and Syria. Another 15 Australian fighters have been killed, including two young suicide bombers.
The government has said it believes about 100 Australians are actively supporting extremist groups from within Australia, recruiting fighters and grooming suicide bomber candidates as well as providing funds and equipment.
A Sydney money transfer business owned by the sister and brother-in-law of convicted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf, an Islamic State fighter, had its license suspended this week on suspicion it had been sending 1 million Australian dollars ($ 900,000) a month to the Middle East to finance terrorism, said John Schimdt, chief executive of the industry regulator and corruption watchdog AUSTRAC.