Scotland is to remain a part of the United Kingdom after the results of a historic referendum revealed this morning (September 19) that a majority had voted no to independence.
However, despite many keen to maintain the status quo, commentators today said that change would be inevitable.
55.3 (2 million voters) voted NO, against 44.7% (1.61 million) voting yes. The turnout was 84.59%.
The referendum, which has dominated UK politics for the past year, and headlines in the UK and globally in the run up to yesterday’s poll, divided families, political parties and even business opinion.
North Sea oil was often central to the debate, to support the Scottish economy, but with mixed predictions over how much is left, how long it would last, and how much Scotland could rely on it.
The heads of BP and Shell both spoke out, calling for Scotland to remain in the UK. Sir Ian Wood, author of a report into the industry, commissioned to help improve investment and maximum resource extraction, has also spoken out, saying he believed it will be more difficult to get the level of investment needed in the North Sea under a changed regime.
Industry body Oil & Gas UK this morning said it looked forward to continuing working closely with both the UK and Scottish Governments.
Malcolm Webb, Oil & Gas UK Chief Executive, said: “The Referendum campaign rightly revealed the important role the offshore oil and gas industry plays in our economy, both in Scotland and in the rest of the UK. This is understandable given this industry remains the UK’s largest corporate taxpayer and largest industrial investor, and its crucial role in helping assure thousands of well-paid highly skilled jobs as well as our energy security.
“To safeguard the industry’s future, it is particularly important that that the government now presses swiftly ahead with fiscal reform as well as the implementation of Sir Ian Wood’s recommendations to maximise the economic recovery of our oil and gas resource. The industry must not delay either in a cross-sector effort to bring its escalating costs under control.
“There has been a great deal of discussion about how much oil and gas resource remains to be produced from the UK continental shelf. Oil & Gas UK’s position remains that there could be between 12 – 24 billion barrels of oil and gas still to recover but that the above three pivotal challenges need to be resolved if we are to stand any chance of reaching the top half of this range.”
David Cameron, the UK's Prime Minister, this morning said he was "delighted" with the result. Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister and leader of the independence campaign said he accepted his defeat and that "Scotland has by majority decided not at this stage to become an independent country."
Bob Ruddiman, an Aberdeen-based partner and Head of Energy at law firm Pinsent Masons, said: "Maintaining the status quo is not possible. We need to recognise that a number of promises have been made to Scotland throughout the independence campaign. In the push to offer compromise by ramping up devolved powers, there has been very little detail in how this will work in practice and the timetable to drive forward these changes forward is very tight.
“Global financial markets are on the road to recovery. Westminster and Holyrood now have to collaborate to make positive changes to build on economic recovery, avoid dampening UK-wide investor appetite and reiterate that Scotland remains open for business. Confidence in our domestic energy industry is now key. We should be focused on how we continue to generate power through the winter months as continued instability in Russia brings concerns about security of supply into sharp focus. Heat and power for British industrial users and domestic consumers has to be a priority. So what's the answer? It’s now more important than ever that we maintain a balanced energy supply combining hydrocarbons, conventional power, nuclear and renewables.
"North Sea is entering a critical phase in its history. Implementation of the Wood Review coupled with a comprehensive review of the industry's fiscal regime could lead to some major changes to E&P in the UK. Maximising recovery is the key and now the question of Scottish independence has been answered, the oil and gas industry can move forward and focus on this effectively in a more stable political environment.
“Both governments have to look carefully at how they can support the energy supply chain in their respective export markets – we have world class capabilities in several aspects of the energy supply chain."
The director general of the UK’s Chambers of British Industry (CBI) John Cridland said the “no” result would have been greeted by a collective sigh across the business community this morning.
“Business has always believed that the Union is best for creating jobs, raising growth and improving living standards, and welcomes that the people of Scotland want to play an integral role in this internationally successful partnership.”
However, discussion will now move on to what extra powers can be devolved to Scotland. The country already has powers over a number of areas, including health and education, under the devolved Scottish Executive, renamed the Scottish Government by the ruling Scottish National Party.
As part of the referendum campaign, the “Better Together” group pledged to offer even more powers to Scotland, under a “devo max” arrangement, which has caused ire in England, and some calling for England to have its own Egnlish parliament.
Cridland said: “As the debate now moves to the question of further devolution, it is important that it does not undermine the strength of the single internal market and it is in the best interests of citizens living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as those in Scotland. Such a difficult campaign inevitably leaves scars which will take time to heal and we now need politicians, businesses and citizens to unite to achieve a better future for all in the UK.
“Now is also the time to rebuild relationships outside the UK to reassure international investors and other partners that we will emerge stronger and more confident in the months and years ahead.”
Yes: Dundee City, North Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire, and Glasgow were the only county divisions to have more than 50% voting yes. Dundee City had the highest yes vote, at 57.35%.
No: Aberdeen City saw 58.61% vote no, Aberdeenshire sae 60.38% vote no. The Orkney Islands so far have the largest no vote, at 67.2%, followed by Dumfries and Galloway with 65.67%.