Scots shake kingdom with resounding “Aye” for own Parliament
By MAUREEN JOHNSON, Associated Press Writer, EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP)

Scots resoundingly approved creating their own Parliament, embarking today on a path of home rule that will stretch their 290- year-old ties to neighboring England.

Jubilant supporters burst into the anthem “Flower of Scotland” as the final result of Thursday’s vote was declared early today, confirming that three-fourths of Scots had voted for a parliament critics say will precipitate the breakup of the United Kingdom.

“This is a good day for Scotland and it’s a good day for Britain and the United Kingdom, too,” Prime Minister Tony Blair told a delighted Edinburgh crowd as he arrived from London. Scotland’s nearly 4 million voters -- just under 10 percent of the British electorate -- will take control of most of their domestic affairs when the Scottish Parliament opens in Edinburgh in 2000.

It marks the most significant British constitutional change since Irish independence in 1922. With results counted in all 32 districts today, the vote for the Parliament was 74.2 percent in favor, with 63.4 percent supporting a separate question giving the Edinburgh body taxraising powers. Voter turnout was 60.1 percent. Two districts, the Orkney Islands in the north and Dumfries and Galloway on the southern border with England, voted against taxraising powers.

“A nation again,” declared the Edinburgh-based Scotsman newspaper. The tabloid Daily Record hailed, “A New Dawn.” The Express, against a background of the Scottish flag, the blue and white cross of St. Andrew, announced, “Marching On.”

“I’m glad, but there are going to be problems, because this was an ideological vote. They haven’t really thought through the practicalities,” said Clare McAteer, 29, at a newsstand reading the exuberant headlines. Britain’s battered Conservative Party, virtually the sole opponents of the Labor government’s plan to create the Scottish Parliament, conceded defeat. The Conservatives vowed to battle on to avert what it said were plans by Scottish nationalists to use the Parliament to bring about full independence.

“It’s been a decisive result. As a party we accept that,” acknowledged Jackson Carlaw, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party in Scotland. He added: “We don’t want to see this Parliament hijacked by anybody who favors independence.”

Creation of Scottish and Welsh assemblies were a key pledge of Blair’s winning platform in May 1 national elections. However, Blair regards the Scottish Parliament as a way of keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom, by venting pressure for independence, and the nationalists do not. “We have embarked on a journey and the end of this journey will be independence,” declared Alex Salmond, whose Scottish National Party gets about one-fourth of the Scots’ vote in national elections.

Scotland joined with England in 1707. In 1979, the Scots and Welsh rejected separate assemblies. But sentiment has changed, partly out of resentment of 18 years of Conservative rule, delivered on English votes.

Elections for the 129- member Parliament, to open in 2000, take place in 1999. It will keep Scotland within the country and subject to Queen Elizabeth II, while controlling responsibility for a raft of domestic affairs, including health, education, the law, police, sport and the arts. The referendum took place on the 700th anniversary of the defeat of the English army at Stirling Bridge by William Wallace, depicted in the epic movie “Braveheart.”

The Scottish vote was expected to encourage Wales to vote in favor of a lesspowerful separate assembly in Cardiff in a Sept. 18 referendum. Wales is more closely integrated with England and polls show many of its 2 million voters wary of change.

Some observers predicted constitutional instability ahead, with English voters becoming resentful of Scottish lawmakers who remain in the House of Commons in London voting on English domestic issues.

The 5.1 million Scots, occupying 31.9 percent of the United Kingdom’s land, also get a more generous share per person of state spending than others parts of the United Kingdom -- except for troubled Northern Ireland.

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