Queen Elizabeth II has called for “mutual respect” among Scots following a divisive campaign, which however ended with an independence referendum that left the United Kingdom intact.
Despite a surge in Scottish nationalist support in the final fortnight of the campaign, the anti-independence “No” camp secured a clear margin of 55.30 percent of the vote against 44.70 percent for the separatist “Yes” side.
Queen Elizabeth II urged her subjects in the United Kingdom on Friday to come together “in a spirit of mutual respect and support” after Scots voted against independence following a divisive and heated campaign.
The monarch, who is currently staying at her Scottish estate of Balmoral, broke her official silence on a vote that had threatened to tear apart the 300-year-old union over which she reigns.
“Knowing the people of Scotland as I do, I have no doubt that Scots, like others throughout the United Kingdom, are able to express strongly held opinions before coming together again in a spirit of mutual respect and support,” she said in a statement issued by Buckingham Palace.
The 88-year-old acknowledged there were “strong feelings and contrasting emotions” after Thursday’s vote, which ended in a decisive defeat for the separatists.
“That, of course, is the nature of the robust democratic tradition we enjoy in this country. But I have no doubt that these emotions will be tempered by an understanding of the feelings of others,” she said.
The queen said that Britons had in common “an enduring love of Scotland” that would help unite them, and urged everyone to “work constructively for the future of Scotland and indeed all parts of this country”.
“My family and I will do all we can to help and support you in this important task,” she said.
The queen is known for keeping her views private and had made no official comment on the referendum, except to reportedly tell a well-wisher last weekend that she hoped people would “think very carefully about the future”.
A narrowing of the polls prompted a number of politicians to call for a royal statement in favour of the union, but the only response was a reprimand from the palace.
“Any suggestion that the queen would wish to influence the outcome of the current referendum campaign is categorically wrong,” it said, insisting she was “above politics”.
After a campaign that inspired other break-away movements, especially in Spain’s Catalonia, and opened a Pandora’s box of demands for more autonomy across the United Kingdom, turnout was 84.6 percent — the highest ever for an election in Britain.
“No” campaigners across Scotland cheered, hugged and danced as the results came in the early morning.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “delighted” and added: “Now the debate has been settled for a generation.”
US President Barack Obama said he hoped to continue his country’s “strong and special relationship with all the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.
Meanwhile, Scottish leader Alex Salmond said Friday he would resign after losing the referendum. He conceded defeat and said he would be stepping down from his post and from the leadership of his Scottish National Party (SNP) in November.
“For me as leader, my time is nearly over. But for Scotland the campaign continues and the dream shall never die,” he said at a press conference in Edinburgh.
Many “Yes” activists had watched the result in tears, although Salmond urged them to take heart from the huge number — 1.6 million — who backed independence.
The queen appealed for Scots on both sides to set aside their differences, saying: “Despite the range of views that have been expressed, we have in common an enduring love of Scotland.
“I have no doubt that the Scots, like others throughout the United Kingdom, are able to express strongly-held opinions before coming together again in a spirit of mutual respect,” said the queen, who is currently staying in her summer residence of Balmoral in northeast Scotland.
The result reassured many in the rest of Britain worried about the possibility of an impending break-up, including investors on the financial markets who pushed the pound to a two-year high against the euro as European stock markets rallied.