World’s eyes on Scottish independence referendum

SCOTLAND’s historic vote caught the public imagination the world over with extensive coverage of the result dominating both newspapers and social media sites.

Picture: Ian Rutherford

According to Twitter, more than 2.6 million tweets were sent in the 24 hours from when the polls opened at 7am on Thursday. The number of tweets peaked at more than 5,000 per minute shortly after 6am yesterday when the result of the poll was confirmed.

A map of “geotagged” tweets released by Twitter showed tweets being sent from across the world, including Australia, where messages suggested support for the Yes campaign, and North America where there were more references to No.

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Press interest in the referendum from outside Scotland had increased dramatically in the final weeks of the campaign after polls showed the Yes campaign was narrowing the gap.

Events were being watched particularly closely in Spain, with Catalonia holding a similar vote on secession in November.

Yesterday, El País, the daily newspaper with the country’s highest daily circulation, reported a speech by Catalan regional premier Artur Mas, who said Scotland had shown that referendums were the “way, the good way and the only way to resolve such conflicts”.

But the newspaper also reported comments from Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, who said Scotland had avoided “serious economic, social, institutional and political consequences” by voting No.

Elsewhere, the New York Times said the outcome of the referendum had caused “deep disappointment for the vocal, enthusiastic pro-independence movement”. The paper said the Nationalists had forced the three main British parties into “panicked promises that they would grant substantial new power to the Scottish Parliament”.

It added: “(The result of the vote) spared Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain a shattering defeat that would have raised questions about his ability to continue in office and would have diminished his nation’s standing in the world.”

In Canada, the Montreal Gazette said the vote signalled the “end of the dream”.

Reporter Matthew Fisher wrote: “Thus ends the dream of an independent Scotland. The Yes surge was so daunting that for the last few weeks of the campaign it was nearly impossible to get much of a sense that those opposed to secession from Britain were even bothering to wage a campaign to save the Union. Yes symbols, posters and literature were everywhere, as was an army of well-organised separatist canvassers aggressively pushing their dream of an independent Scotland.”

The newspaper is one of the most widely read in Quebec, the Francophone Canadian province which held independence referendums in 1980 and 1995.

In Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reported the uglier side of polling day, saying there had been heated confrontations in Glasgow’s George Square. It also reported the abuse Andy Murray received from Twitter trolls after pledging his support for the Yes campaign.

In France, the conservative Le Figaro reported the country’s politicians welcoming the result of the vote as a lesson in democracy. It quoted Philip Cordery, national secretary of the Socialist Party in Europe, saying it was a “relief” for Europe and highlighted the “exemplary” nature of the election in terms of the turnout and the respectful acceptance of the result.

The German daily Die Welt said the referendum had opened up a new battle in British politics, with English MPs unlikely to give up concessions to Scotland lightly. The newspaper said the English would not accept the Scots being granted further self-determination without a fuss, not while a similar boost in rights for English regions is not forthcoming.

The Washington Post said the campaign had been marked by extraordinary turnout and profound division. Throughout the debate, the Yes camp was consistently louder, more visible and better organised, it said.

But unionists insisted all along that they represented “a silent majority” of Scots – a prediction that was borne out in the vote totals. “A No vote breathes new life into a 307-year Union that had appeared in grave danger of breaking apart. The unionist victory was quickly heralded by relieved British officials who had come perilously close to having to preside over a messy and humiliating divorce,” the newspaper said in its report.

It added: “The campaign deeply divided Scots, with pre-election polls showing voters evenly split. After two years of virtually non-stop debate and discussion, tempers flared in the final weeks, and both sides charged the other with intimidation.

“But on the whole, the referendum debate was remarkable for the seriousness with which voters weighed such a stark choice, and the peaceful manner in which they expressed it.”