Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond says the country’s electorate will expect Westminster to honour pledges made during the Scottish independence referendum campaign.
Faced with a narrowing of the polls late in the campaign, Better Together vowed that Scotland would benefit from greater devolved powers if the population voted to remain in the United Kingdom.
Mr Salmond conceded defeat in his fight for Scottish independence, after Scots voted by a margin of around 55%-45% to stay part of the United Kingdom.
The Scottish National Party First Minister said he accepted “the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland” and called on the leaders of the three main pro-Union parties to live up to promises of further devolution they made during the referendum campaign.
Despite winning a majority of votes in some areas - including the nation’s largest city Glasgow - the Yes campaign failed to secure enough support to win the historic referendum, failing to take key targets like Clackmannanshire and the Western Isles and falling well behind in the capital Edinburgh.
After a night of drama, the result became a mathematical certainty shortly after 6am, as the returning officer in Fife announced a comfortable majority for No in the county.
Mr Salmond’s deputy Nicola Sturgeon had already conceded defeat with a handful of results still to be declared, telling the BBC she felt a “real sense of disappointment that we have fallen narrowly short of securing a Yes vote”.
The First Minister - whose failure to attend his local count in Aberdeenshire led to early speculation that Yes Scotland was heading for defeat - accepted in a speech at 6.15am before a One Scotland banner in Edinburgh that the country did not want independence “at this stage”.
He said: “It is important to say that our referendum was an agreed and consented process and Scotland has by a majority decided not at this stage to become an independent country.
“I accept that verdict of the people and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland.”
In an early-morning phone call, Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, the leader of the cross-party Better Together campaign, to congratulate him on “a well-fought campaign”.
The PM is due to make a televised address to the nation this morning in which he is expected to set out plans for further devolution to Scotland as well as a “rebalancing” of the representation of the four nations of the UK.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “I’m absolutely delighted the Scottish people have taken this momentous decision to safeguard our family of nations for future generations.
“In a dangerous and uncertain world I have no doubt we are stronger, safer, and more prosperous together than we ever could be apart.
“But a vote against independence was clearly not a vote against change and we must now deliver on time and in full the radical package of newly devolved powers to Scotland.
“At the same time, this referendum north of the border has led to demand for constitutional reform across the United Kingdom as people south of the border also want more control and freedom in their own hands rather than power being hoarded in Westminster.
“So this referendum marks not only a new chapter for Scotland within the UK but also wider constitutional reform across the Union.”