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Scotland stays, but a less united UK ahead?

world Updated: Sep 20, 2014 01:47 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times

Celebrations over Scotland rejecting independence by 55% to 45% on Friday were soon replaced by moves to devolve more powers not only to Scotland but also to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and a gnawing sense that the road ahead may not be smooth.

As millions heaved a collective sigh of relief, leaders of the defeated Yes camp promptly reminded leaders of the three main parties – Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats – of their vow to give more powers to Scotland, and cautioned against any delay or return to the status quo.

Pro-Union supporters celebrate as Scottish referendum polling results are announced at the Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh. (AFP Photo)

The vow with a timetable to deliver it was made on the eve of the referendum, and had much effect on voters. However, it did not go down too well among several MPs from England, who wanted similar powers for other regions of the United Kingdom.

Read: Scottish nationalist leader Salmond quits

Alex Salmond, Scotland First Minister who accepted defeat on behalf of the Yes campaign, said: "The unionist parties made vows late in the campaign to devolve more powers to Scotland. Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid course”.

Read: Scotland votes against independence

On the day after the intensely-fought referendum, moves were afoot to set in motion the process to fundamentally re-structure the ways in which the United Kingdom is governed.

However, the process is likely to be fractious, given some differences among the key parties, and also because the political focus is soon expected to shift to the May 2015 general elections.

Reflecting demands for UK-wide power reform, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “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 must have a bigger say over theirs”

He said the vow will be honoured in full, and added: “It is absolutely right that a new and fair settlement for Scotland should be accompanied by a new and fair settlement that applies to all parts of our United Kingdom”. The Triumph of No

Cameron also announced that Lord Smith of Kelvin, who so led Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games, will oversee the process to take forward the devolution commitments on tax, welfare and spending by November, and draft legislation to be published by January.

For the process of giving similar powers to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Cameron said he had asked William Hague, leader in the House of Commons, to draw up plans. A cabinet committee is also to be set up with proposals to the same timetable as that of Scotland.