Scot­land c ounts the c osts af ter v ote

Weekend Witness - - Ne Ws -

ED­IN­BURGH — Scots may have voted over­whelm­ingly against in­de­pen­dence, but the c on­se­quences of the r ef­er­en­dum are likely to re­ver­ber­ate for years to c ome.

The count­ing of votes is over in Scot­land’s ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence — now the coun­try will have to cal­cu­late the c osts.

Ac­cord­ing t o the Sc ot­tish g overn­ment, or gan­is­ing the poll c ost some £13,7 mil­lion (R247 mil­lion), with mil­lions more be­ing spent by cam­paign­ers.

But the po­lit­i­cal and per sonal costs have been much higher, and could take far long er t o as sess.

“The de­bate has cre­ated some deep di­vi­sions in our c oun­try. It has been a cam­paign that has en­er­gised and di­vided,” Alis tair D ar­ling, f ormer B ri­tish chan­cel­lor and leader of the pro­union Bet­ter T ogether camp aign, said aft er the r esult was c on­firmed.

It is a c om­ment that man y on the streets ha ve echoed.

“It’s made peo­ple in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics ag ain. T hey’ve sud­denl y g ot the feel­ing that their vote can make a dif­fer­ence,” one “Yes” cam­paigner, who only gave his name as G ary, t old DPA.

The figur es would r eflect that. A ccord­ing to of­fi­cial statis­tics, 97% of the elec­torate r egis­tered t o v ote. Turnout was 84,5%. That num­ber w as 63,8% in the g en­eral elec­tion of 2010.

In the coun­try of five mil­lion, thou­ sands of elec­toral work­ers in more than 2 600 polling s tations t al­lied some 3,5 mil­lion b al­lots aft er elec­tions that ran from 7 am to 10 pm, in a grand show of democr acy.

In the days be­fore the vote, it was the ma­jor topic of con­ver­sa­tion across the coun­try, and across a wide spec­trum of age gr oups.

The ref­er­en­dum was “a tri­umph f or the demo­cratic process and for par­tic­i­pa­tion in pol­i­tics”, said Alex Sal­mond, leader of the “Yes” cam­paign, as he con­ceded def eat.

But the camp aign was deepl y di vi­sive. Can­vassers on both sides spoke of oc­ca­sional in­tim­i­da­tion and threats, although polic e said that v ery f ew in­ci­dents had been r eported.

Peo­ple on both sides said that the is­sue had e xposed di vi­sions bet ween Scots and English, rich and poor, town and c oun­try.

“It’s di vided f am­i­lies; it’ s di vided friends,” said one “N o” camp aigner. “It’s po­larised peo­ple and caused a lot of ill­feel­ing, and that’s not go­ing to go away.”

The po­lit­i­cal cost, too, is high. In the fi­nal weeks of cam­paign­ing, the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment pr oposed le gis­la­tion grant­ing more pow­ers to the Sc ot­tish au­thor­i­ties. Early yes­ter­day, Prime Min­is­ter D avid Cameron an­nounc ed that draft leg­is­la­tion to that ef­fect would be pub­lished b y J anuary. — S apa­DPA.

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