LONDON — The British establishment is breathing a collective sigh of relief as Scotland has voted by a margin of 10% to stay in the United Kingdom.
Prime Minister David Cameron (pictured) welcomed the result as around 85% of Scots — the biggest turnout in a U.K. election since the early 1950s — voted in the referendum on independence. A whopping 1,617,989 (45%) voted for independence while 2,001,926 (55%) nixed the idea.
Cameron, who likely faced having to quit had the Scots voted yes, said he was delighted that Scotland was still part of the U.K.
The British business community is also chipper that Scotland voted to stay on board Blighty. In London, stocks rose and the value of the pound headed north making gains against the dollar.
Scotland’s rejection of the latest bid for independence came in at a higher margin than pollsters had predicted in the final run-up to the Sept. 18 vote.
For media types, particularly the BBC, the no vote was mostly welcome news.
Throughout the two-year independence battle the U.K. pubcaster had remained conspicuously silent on the impact an independent Scotland was likely to have on its own fortunes.
The BBC noted primly that any comment on how a yes vote would affect itself risked compromising its role as an impartial news organisation reporting on the referendum.
It was therefore unable to challenge the Scottish Nationalists’ claim that a newly independent Scotland would have a new Scottish pubcaster and still be able to keep BBC programs without having to pay more than the current BBC license fee.
This policy promise was regarded by TV insiders as undeliverable.
Had Scots left the union, the British government insisted that Scotland and the BBC need to divorce. Privately the Corporation knew the effect of Scotland exiting the U.K. — a big gap in what the BBC claims is an already financially precarious position.
“There will be massive relief inside the BBC at Scotland rejecting independence,” said media commentator Stewart Purvis, Professor of Television Journalism at London’s City University. “A yes vote would have seen 10% of income lopped off the BBC,” he explained.
“A very difficult situation has been avoided,” echoed a BBC journalist. “The BBC has enough on its plate without having to plan for an independent Scotland.”
But with 5.1 million Scots still having to pay their BBC license fee and Scottish nationalism anything but dead, will Auntie need to be a bit less haughty in how in treats Scotland in future?
“A lot of Scots feel patronized by the BBC,” said one BBC Scottish presenter. “Having fewer English voices on Scottish TV and radio would be a good place to start. …It infuriates local people that English broadcasters are often given jobs covering national U.K. events when they are held in Scotland. We have some brilliant anchors of our own.”
For those British independent producers based in Scotland who threatened to move south of the border to keep their businesses afloat the no vote is also good news.
Some media commentators predict that despite the strength of the no vote more media U.K. devolution is likely to follow.
The upshot could be a less centralized BBC with more power devolved outside London, in line with Cameron’s plans for a new British constitution that will see Scotland, and perhaps England, gain more legislative powers.
J K Rowling, an Edinburgh resident, was reported to have donated £1 million ($1.6 million) to the Better Together campaign, also supported by the likes of Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger.
On hearing the referendum results she Tweeted: “Been up all night watching Scotland make history. A huge turnout, a peaceful democratic process: we should be proud.”
For once, Rowling was in agreement with David Cameron.