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alex salmond

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has announced his resignation after voters rejected independence in the recent referendum.

Alex Salmond will also resign as leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), which he has led for a total of 20 years.

Scottish voters backed the country staying in the UK by 2,001,926 votes to 1,617,989 in Thursday’s referendum.

Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth II has said Scotland’s vote to stay in the Union was “a result that all of us throughout the United Kingdom will respect”.

She added: “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.”

Dozens of rival Union and independence supporters have gathered in George Square, in the centre of Glasgow, where they are being separated by police. Officers on horseback are also at the scene.

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said there were about 100 people in each of the two groups, and although there had been some “minor disorder” it had been dealt with quickly, with no arrests so far. The square is closed to traffic with local diversions in place.

The square had hosted a party by “Yes” supporters ahead of the referendum.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has announced his resignation after voters rejected independence

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has announced his resignation after voters rejected independence (photo AP)

UK’s PM David Cameron said the three main Westminster parties would now deliver their campaign pledge to boost the powers of Scotland’s devolved parliament.

Alex Salmond, 59, is Scotland’s longest-serving first minister, having held the post since the SNP won power at the Scottish Parliament in May 2007.

Speaking from his official residence at Bute House in Edinburgh, the first minister told journalists: “For me as leader my time is nearly over, but for Scotland the campaign continues and the dream shall never die.

“I am immensely proud of the campaign that Yes Scotland fought and particularly of the 1.6 million voters who rallied to that cause.”

Alex Salmond said he would resign as SNP leader at the party’s conference in November, before standing down as first minister when the party elects its next leader in a membership ballot.

He said there were a “number of eminently qualified and very suitable candidates” to replace him.

Nicola Sturgeon, the current deputy first minister and deputy SNP leader, is seen as a clear frontrunner.

Alex Salmond, who will stay on as MSP for Aberdeenshire East, added: “It has been the privilege of my life to serve Scotland as first minister.

“But, as I said often during the referendum campaign, this is not about me or the SNP. It is much more important than that.

“The position is this. We lost the referendum vote but can still carry the political initiative. More importantly Scotland can still emerge as the real winner.”

Nicola Sturgeon said she could “think of no greater privilege than to seek to lead the party I joined when I was just 16,” but said she would not make an announcement today.

She added: “Alex Salmond’s achievements as SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister are second to none. He led the SNP into government and has given our country a renewed self confidence.”

Alex Salmond also used his resignation statement to question David Cameron’s more powers pledge.

“We now have the opportunity to hold Westminster’s feet to the fire on the ‘vow’ that they have made to devolve further meaningful power to Scotland,” he said.

“This places Scotland in a very strong position.

“I spoke to the prime minister today and, although he reiterated his intention to proceed as he has outlined, he would not commit to a second reading vote (in the House of Commons) by 27 March on a Scotland Bill.

“That was a clear promise laid out by Gordon Brown during the campaign.

“The prime minister says such a vote would be meaningless. I suspect he cannot guarantee the support of his party.”

On referendum night, 28 of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas voted in favor of staying in the UK.

Glasgow, Scotland’s largest council area and the third largest city in Britain, voted in favor of independence by 194,779 to 169,347.

The 75% turnout in Glasgow was the lowest in the country, and hoped for breakthroughs in other traditional Labour strongholds such as South Lanarkshire, Inverclyde and across Ayrshire never materialized for the nationalists.

Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, clearly rejected independence by 194,638 to 123,927 votes, while Aberdeen City voted “No” by a margin of more than 20,000 votes.

Across Scotland, 84.6% of registered voters cast their ballot in the referendum – a record for a national election.

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The Scottish referendum debate enters the final day of campaigning with both sides making their final pitch to voters.

It comes as the latest polls suggested the result remained too close to call, with a slender lead for a “No” vote.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has written to voters appealing to them to vote “Yes”, saying “let’s do this”.

Key figures from the pro-Union Better Together campaign were out meeting nightworkers into Wednesday, ahead of a Love Scotland, Vote No rally.

Three new polls, one by Opinium for the Daily Telegraph, another by ICM for the Scotsman and a third by Survation for the Daily Mail, were published on September 16.

With undecided voters excluded, they all suggested a lead for “No” of 52% to 48%.

Former US President Bill Clinton stepped into the debate urging Scots to vote No. He said: “Unity with maximum self-determination sends a powerful message to a world torn by identity conflicts that it is possible to respect our differences while living and working together.”

Last night, about 1,500 Yes supporters bearing Saltire flags, badges and blue campaign T-shirts gathered for a rally in Glasgow’s George Square.

On the final day of campaigning, in a letter to the people of Scotland, Alex Salmond told them they will hold power in their hands as they vote to determine their country’s future on September 18.

He asked voters to step back from the political arguments and statistics that have defined the two-year campaign and trust in themselves as they go into the polling booth.

Alex Salmond said: “The talking is nearly done. The campaigns will have had their say. What’s left is just us – the people who live and work here. The only people with a vote. The people who matter.

The Scottish referendum debate enters the final day of campaigning with both sides making their final pitch to voters

The Scottish referendum debate enters the final day of campaigning with both sides making their final pitch to voters

“The people who for a few precious hours during polling day hold sovereignty, power, authority in their hands. It’s the greatest most empowering moment any of us will ever have. Scotland’s future – our country in our hands.

“What to do? Only each of us knows that. For my part, I ask only this. Make this decision with a clear head and a clear conscience.”

Better Together leader Alistair Darling and former PM Gordon Brown will front a Love Scotland, Vote No rally in Glasgow later.

Ahead of that event, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont and leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson have been out campaigning overnight.

Blair McDougall, campaign director of Better Together, said: “Unlike Alex Salmond who is on a helicopter victory tour, Better Together is campaigning through the night for a No vote.

“Better Together campaigners are working tirelessly to spread the message that there will be better, faster, safer change with a No vote for a stronger Scotland, while Alex Salmond’s political project for separation risks jobs, pensions and the NHS.”

Responding to the latest polls, Blair McDougall, from Better Together, added: “This vote will go right down to the wire. There is no room for a protest vote. If we vote to leave the UK there would be no going back, no matter what it costs us in terms of bigger cuts, higher prices and fewer jobs.

“The last week has exposed how much of a risk going it alone would be for Scotland. Jobs would move to England, funding for pensions would be cut and our NHS would be at risk.

“These are risks we just don’t need to take. We can have faster, better, stronger change for Scotland within the UK.”

Yes Scotland welcomed the latest poll findings describing them as “hugely encouraging”.

Chief executive Blair Jenkins said: “People know that a Yes vote is Scotland’s one opportunity to achieve job-creating powers, protect our NHS from the damaging impact of Westminster cuts and privatisation, and ensure that never again do we get Tory governments imposed on Scotland that we have roundly rejected.

“These polls – like all the recent polls – show that we are in touching distance of success on Thursday.

“The referendum is on a knife edge, and this will spur on everybody who wants and is working hard for a Yes to redouble their efforts.”

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