Isles MP and Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael has welcomed last night’s no vote in the Scottish referendum and reiterated his promise to deliver more power to the Scottish government.
Speaking to The Shetland Times today Mr Carmichael said the convincing 27.4 per cent majority in the isles best reflected the views of Shetland’s population. During the count 9,951 votes were cast against independence, compared with 5,669 in favour.
Turnout in the isles reached a record 84.4 per cent, a figure similar to those recorded in other parts of the country. Nationally, the no side won with 2,001,926 votes over 1,617,989 for the yes campaign. The lowest turn-out was recorded in Glasgow, with 75 per cent.
Mr Carmichael said government faced the challenge of ensuring the impressive level of political engagement experienced during the referendum campaign continues.
“The turnout was absolutely phenomenal in Shetland and elsewhere. It’s a challenge for those of us who are in government and in politics. It’s important to ensure we continue to hold the engagement we’ve constructed already.
“I’d like to think it was a consequence of the role we all played on both sides of the campaign.”
He insisted Scotland will benefit from more powers as it moves ahead following the vote.
The three main UK parties have already agreed further devolution of powers to Holyrood should happen. During the campaign the parties signed a vow to devolve more powers in the event of a no vote.
“I would not have gone out on the campaign trail to promise more powers if I wasn’t intending to deliver them,” Mr Carmichael said.
“We have already made enormous progress with the Our Islands Our Future campaign. There are issues that could benefit from more progress, and I will work with the island councils to make that progress.”
Mr Carmichael said he would continue to vote on English matters at Westminster “for as long as that is the constitutional set up we have”.
But he said change across the UK was one of the “inevitable” consequences of the no vote.
“There is a sequence here: We give the Scottish parliament the more powers that we need, and that we want. As a result of that, I believe, you can unlock the door to much greater constitutional change across the UK.
“I’ve never particularly sought to have a say on domestic services in England that are devolved in Scotland, but for as long as that is how parliament is constituted, I will play a part.”
Yes Shetland’s Brian Nugent thanked the 5,669 people who “voted for hope over fear”.
He said the isles had voted to stick with “foodbank Britain” and indicated the Scottish electorate may yet demand the issue is raised once more.
But he said the rival campaigns had amounted to a “good-natured contest”.
“I would like to thank the 5,669 voters who voted for hope over fear. Better Together have made promises about extra powers across Scotland, and in particular the promises made to Shetland, it is time to put up.
“So in Shetland, we have voted to remain in foodbank Britain, in austerity Britain, with a Tory government ably supported by its Liberal accomplices.
“See you in a few years when the people will demand we do this referendum thing all over again.
“Thanks to our Better Together opponents locally for a good-natured contest.”
However, pro-independence SIC councillor, Jonathan Wills, went further. Commenting on The Shetland Times website he said “Scotshire” now faced being dragged out of the European Union against the will of its people.
“Don’t dump those Yes badges and bunting just yet. They could come in handy in a couple of years’ time, when the English nationalists hold their referendum on ‘should the UK remain in the European Union?’
“If UKIP and its fellow travellers win that poll of polls and try to drag Scotshire out of Europe against our will, then we really will face the prospect of the UK breaking up.”
He said the “energy” and “ingenuity” of young voters on both sides of the debate should be “harnessed” to force Westminster to deliver on its promises for more powers.
“In my view the best way to achieve that will be to send a large contingent of SNP members to Westminster at the UK General Election next May. If the SNP held the balance of power there it would concentrate minds wonderfully for, alas, I do not think we can trust the Lib/Lab/Tory MPs to keep their panic-stricken pledges.”
Local Better Together representative, Theo Nicolson, said the strong turn-out meant peoples’ views had been represented at the polls.
“When we have an 85 per cent turn out throughout Scotland, it’s a tremendous night for democracy.
“I hope the people can unite again after this period of division. Now, the main parties in Westminster, who have made these vows must deliver.”
He said the “weight” of the three main parties at Westminster would help deliver more powers north of the border.
“I think they have to try to do that now before the General Election in May.”
The no result may have come as a shock for some, given many tended to consider the yes movement as a stronger campaign than Better Together. Mr Nicolson defended the pro-union campaign.
“Because the yes campaign was looking for change, the no campaign was basically the status quo. The no campaigners were less vociferous as the yes ones were.
“The no side weren’t so much complacent, but they were quieter. The quiet majority came out.”
He said nationwide reports of intimidation in the run up to the vote had not been a factor in the isles.
“We certainly never had any intimidation from the yes campaigners, and we got on well with them.”
Local politicians have been taking to Twitter to express their opinions following the historic poll.
Shetland Islands Council convener Malcolm Bell said the two campaigns could “set aside their differences”, while political leader Gary Robinson reiterated his plea for greater devolution. He also called on voting for 16 and 17-year-olds to become the norm.
— Malcolm Bell (@malcolm_bell) September 19, 2014