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* Nationalists leader Salmond concedes defeat
* Unionists to secure 55 percent of vote – Reuters calculations
EDINBURGH, Sept 19 (Reuters) – Scotland spurned independence in a historic referendum that threatened to rip the United Kingdom apart, sow financial turmoil and diminish Britain’s remaining global clout.
A vote for the 307-year union is a relief for millions of Britons including Prime Minister David Cameron, whose job was on the line, as well as allies across the world who were horrified at the prospect of the United Kingdom’s separation.
With 31 of 32 constituencies declared, unionists had won 55 percent of the vote while separatists were on 45 percent.
“Scotland has by a majority decided not, at this stage, to become an independent country. I accept that verdict of the people and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people ofScotland,” Salmond said.
Sterling strengthened sharply against the dollar and the euro while share prices looked set to open higher in a relief rally.
Though the nationalists won Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow, they failed to live up to opinion poll surveys before the vote which forecast that the United Kingdom’s fate was balanced on a knife edge.
Seeking to tap into a cocktail of historical rivalry, opposing political tastes and a perception that London has mismanaged Scotland, nationalists say Scots, not London, should rule Scotland to build a wealthier and fairer country.
Unionists had warned independence would usher in financial, economic and political uncertainty and diminish the UK’s standing in the world. They have warned that Scotland would not keep the pound as part of a formal currency union.
Beyond the money and power, the referendum has provoked deep passions in Scotland, drawn in many voters who ignore traditional political campaigns and underscored what London politicians admit is a need for wider constitutional change.
Cameron, who acknowledged his unpopularity in Scotland during the campaign, has drawn criticism for both putting the fate of the United Kingdom on the line and then rushing to promise more powers before the vote.
The prime minister will speak shortly and Queen Elizabeth is also expected to put out a statement.
The prospect of breaking up the world’s sixth-largest economy and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, has stoked concern in the United States and Europe, particularly in countries like Spain which face their own secessionist movement.
“The risk of huge disruption from Scottish independence is gone. Not for good, given the still high support for a No in the polls, but for a considerable time,” said Robert Wood, economist at Berenberg Bank. “For now markets can return to normal.”
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