TIME U.K.

British Royal Couple’s Second Child Due in April

Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge And Prince Harry Visit Tower Of London's Ceramic Poppy Field
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge walk through an installation entitled 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' by artist Paul Cummins, made up of 888,246 ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London, to commemorate the First World War on August 5, 2014 in London, England. Each ceramic poppy represents an allied victim of the First World War and the display is due to be completed by Armistice Day on November 11, 2014. After Armistice Day each poppy from the installation will be available to buy for 25 GBP. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images) Oli Scarff—Getty Images

(LONDON) — The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have confirmed that their second baby is due in April — the first time they’ve offered a month for the royal birth.

Kensington Palace also said in a statement Monday that the duchess, who has been sidelined by a prolonged bout of severe morning sickness, continues to improve.

The former Kate Middleton and Prince William are scheduled to welcome Singapore President Tony Tan when he arrives on a four-day state visit this week. She is also expected to attend the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 award ceremony.

The duchess canceled several engagements after her second pregnancy was announced in early September. She had acute morning sickness during the first trimester of her pregnancy with Prince George.

TIME Thailand

Thai Dictator Faces Ire Over Bungled Investigation Into Murder of British Tourists

Thailand's Military Coup Continues As General Prayuth Receives Royal Endorsement
Thai military General Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks during a press conference after receiving the royal endorsement as the military coup leader on May 26, 2014, in Bangkok The Asahi Shimbun—2014 The Asahi Shimbun

The shoddy handling of the case has provoked international criticism

Thailand’s military dictator General Prayuth Chan-ocha is facing fierce protests on his maiden trip overseas, with Thai exiles in Italy rallying Thursday against his May 22 coup, and an indignant crowd expected to gather in London on Friday to protest the botched investigation into the brutal murder of two British backpackers on the resort island of Koh Tao.

Two Burmese casual workers, Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, both 21, have been arrested for rape and murder of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and murder of her friend David Miller, 24, who were found bludgeoned to death on the island’s idyllic Sairee Beach.

The mishandling of the case has made headlines around the globe.

On Tuesday, ignoring a litany of procedural irregularities, Prayuth told representatives from the British and Burmese governments that their role would be “limited to observation” as both nations must “respect our processes,” reported the Bangkok Post.

The investigation has been dubbed “a perfect job” by Thai police chief Somyot Pumpunmuang, but is in fact an “appalling mess” according to Felicity Gerry QC, a prominent British defense lawyer specializing in high-profile sexual-assault cases.

Her condemnation echoes those of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Thailand’s forensics’ chief, the U.K. government and the victims’ families.

Reports have emerged that Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun were beaten and threatened with electrocution during interrogation. (The Thai police robustly deny the allegations.)

They were also forced by police into a macabre re-enactment of the murder, which, Gerry tells TIME, is “bound to prejudice everything and does the victim and victims’ families no good at all.”

Tourists have also been allowed to visit the crime scene and the handling of evidence has been condemned.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a witness hearing was called by Koh Samui Court, but the defense team, having just flown in from Bangkok, was permitted just half an hour to meet the suspects.

It was “just enough time to explain what is a lawyer, why you need a lawyer and what does a lawyer do for you,” says Andy Hall, a Thailand-based migrant labor activist helping to organize the defense.

A request to postpone the hearing to allow adequate time for the defense to prepare was thrown out by the judge, who claimed defense witnesses posed a flight risk, even though the witnesses were employed and legally resident in Thailand — coveted status for migrant Burmese.

“It makes absolutely no sense why, in such a sensitive case, the court would rush hearings and it once again undermines the accused’s right to a fair trial,” says Hall.

Back in the U.K., the distraught families of Miller and Witheridge can only watch and pray. “As a family we hope that the right people are found and brought to justice,” said Witheridge’s family in a statement last week.

TIME Palestine

U.K. Parliament Votes to Recognize Palestinian State

A pro-Palestine supporter wears a Palestinian and Union flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London
A pro-Palestine supporter wears a Palestinian and Union flag outside the Houses of Parliament in London Oct. 13, 2014 Luke MacGregor—Reuters

Vote overwhelmingly in favor, although more than half of lawmakers did not participate

(LONDON) — British lawmakers voted Monday in favor of recognizing Palestine as a state, a symbolic move intended to increase pressure for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Legislators in the House of Commons voted 274 to 12 to support a motion calling on the British government to “recognize the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel.”

Prime Minister David Cameron and other government leaders abstained, and more than half of the 650 Commons members did not participate in the vote.

But the motion had support from both government and opposition lawmakers, who said it could help kick-start the peace process following a summer war in Gaza that claimed the lives of more than 2,100 Palestinians, the majority civilians, and more than 70 Israelis, most of them soldiers.

Labour Party legislator Grahame Morris said recognizing a Palestinian state could help break the impasse in peace negotiations before it was too late.

Otherwise, he said, “any hope of a two-state solution — the only viable solution — will have disappeared altogether.”

Conservative lawmaker Nicholas Soames — grandson of World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill — said that “to recognize Palestine is both morally right and is in our national interest.”

The government said the vote would not change Britain’s official diplomatic stance. Middle East Minister Tobias Ellwood said the U.K. would recognize Palestinian statehood when it would help bring about peace.

In 2012 the United Nations General Assembly voted to recognize a state of Palestine on territories captured by Israel in 1967. But the United States and many European countries have not followed suit.

But Western politicians have expressed frustration with Israel’s continued settlement-building on West Bank land the Palestinians want for a future state.

Earlier this month Sweden’s new Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said his government would recognize the state of Palestine, an announcement that drew praise from Palestinian officials and criticism from Israel.

TIME U.K.

Anti-Immigration Party’s Win in U.K. Rings Alarm Bells in Europe

Newly-elected UK Independence Party MP Douglas Carswell poses for photographers with a copy of the local paper in Clacton-on-Sea, in eastern England, on Oct. 10, 2014.
Newly-elected UK Independence Party MP Douglas Carswell poses for photographers with a copy of the local paper in Clacton-on-Sea, in eastern England, on Oct. 10, 2014. Leon Neal—AFP/Getty Images

The first British parliamentary seat for the U.K. Independence Party intensifies—and reflects—the crisis of mainstream politics in Europe

Many forces are at work in British politics, but nominative determinism may not be one of them. When last month a member of parliament named Mark Reckless defected from the Conservative Party, Britain’s largest mainstream political party and senior partner in the country’s coalition government, the move looked, well, reckless.

Reckless resigned his parliamentary seat to join the right-wing, anti-Europe, anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which had not yet succeeded in getting any MPs elected to Westminster. UKIP did well in some local and European elections, but conventional wisdom suggested the party benefited from protest votes against the big established parties and would struggle gain a foothold in the U.K. legislature.

On Thursday, those predictions proved wrong as another Conservative Party defector, Douglas Carswell, won back his parliamentary seat for UKIP with a thumping majority. In another by-election held the same day in a district that had previously been a solid Labour Party area, UKIP came within 617 votes of defeating the Labour candidate, overturning another piece of conventional wisdom that misconstrued UKIP as a threat only to the right-leaning Conservatives.

Reckless, who is preparing for a Nov. 6 by-election to try to capture his old seat for his new party, no longer looks reckless and conventional wisdoms appear anything but orthodox. Alarms are ringing not only among members of Britain’s mainstream parties but across Europe. An obvious focus of fear is what the rise of UKIP means for Britain; not only its attitude to Europe, but also towards its own diverse population.

In his victory speech, Carswell called for UKIP to be “a party for all Britain and all Britons, first and second generation [immigrants] as much as every other.” But UKIP’s party leader Nigel Farage was already busily undermining this message of tolerance, responding to criticism of an interview in which he called for HIV-positive migrants to be turned away at British borders by going still further, proposing a ban on any migrants with “life threatening diseases” getting treatment within Britain’s National Health Service.

The characterization of UKIP as a protest party fails to acknowledge the way such rhetoric resonates in communities that feel they are losing jobs and opportunity to immigrants. The mainstream parties have a shamefully thin record of speaking up for the necessity of immigration and an even more shameful record of harnessing anti-immigration sentiment while chasing short-term electoral gain. At other times, they find it more comfortable not to broach the subject at all—one reason Labour came so close to gifting UKIP a by-election victory.

Britain’s rumbling debate about its membership of the European Union may appear on the surface to be about bossy Brussels regulators and distorting subsidies and laws, but it is more often a proxy for the immigration debate that isn’t happening. Mainstream politicians don’t want to be tarred as Little Englanders, but increasing numbers of them, mostly Conservatives but also Labour members, are attracted to the idea of an exit from the E.U., which would instantly restrict the flow of immigrants from other, poorer E.U. countries currently entitled to live and work in Britain.

Continental Europe worries—with justification—that the U.K. is edging closer to ditching its E.U. membership. Yet the shudders attending UKIP’s latest win are not merely caused by the prospect of a so-called “Brexit“. In the flounderings and failings of Britain’s big political parties and the upsurge in support for populist alternatives sounding anti-immigration, anti-Europe rallying cries, E.U. leaders outside Britain see reflections of the turbulence in their own countries. Even in Germany, the crucible of pro-E.U. sentiment where memories run deep of its disastrous experiment with the narrowest possible vision of national identity, a euroskeptic party is gaining ground.

UKIP’s win is, with a certain irony, part of a pan-European phenomenon. Such parties grow because the political mainstream gives them the space to do so.

 

 

 

TIME U.K.

How the Brighton Bombing 30 Years Ago Portended Peace

Not only did Irish terrorists fail to kill Margaret Thatcher. Their movement has been absorbed into Britain's resilient democracy

In the early hours of Oct. 12 1984, a bomb packed with 20lb of gelignite gouged a ragged O of surprise—or outrage—in the frontage of Brighton’s Grand Hotel. The intended target, then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, escaped the blast, but not everyone proved so fortunate. Most guests had come to the English seaside town for the annual convention of Thatcher’s U.K. Conservative Party; five died and 31 were injured, including Norman Tebbit, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and his wife Margaret, a nurse, left permanently paralyzed.

Later the same day, the Prime Minister gave her keynote speech to delegates as planned. But it was not the speech she had planned. The attack, Thatcher said, “was an attempt not only to disrupt and terminate our Conference; it was an attempt to cripple Her Majesty’s democratically-elected Government. That is the scale of the outrage in which we have all shared, and the fact that we are gathered here now—shocked, but composed and determined—is a sign not only that this attack has failed, but that all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.”

From the distance of three decades, the Iron Lady turns out, as so often, to have been both right and wrong. The group responsible for the attack, the Provisional IRA, has disarmed and disbanded. The bomber, Patrick Magee, jailed for life in 1986, regained his freedom fourteen years later as part of the Northern Ireland peace process his murderous act disrupted, but failed to derail.

That same process has quelled, but not completely extinguished, Irish republican terrorism. Magee has become an advocate for reconciliation and is scheduled to appear at an event in Brighton to mark the 30th anniversary of the bombing. Tebbit feels less conciliatory. Invited in 2007 to participate in a radio reunion of figures involved in the events of that day, including Magee, he replied: “The only reunion I’d be happy to attend was the one where Magee was reunited with a bomb.”

Just as hard for old adversaries to stomach has been the rehabilitation—and rise—of Sinn Féin, the party that once acted as the political wing of the Provisional IRA. In 2007, Sinn Féin won the second largest number of seats in the Northern Irish Assembly, installing Martin McGuinness, a former member of the Provisional IRA, as Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister. The party’s popularity south of the border, in the Republic of Ireland, is also surging. An Oct. 9 poll puts it at level pegging with the governing and hitherto most popular party, Fine Gael. The ranks of Irish republicans have not been vanquished but empowered.

Britain, meanwhile, is grappling with a new wave of terror that continues to build, from adversaries who appear implacable. Defenders of civil liberty worry that measures to counter the threat from militant Islam risk damaging the democracy they are designed to protect. Such an outcome would ignore the hard lessons of Brighton and its aftermath. The remodeling of republicanism as an electoral force may not be the triumph Thatcher envisaged as she stood at the podium hours after the bomb blast, outwardly calm, her helmet of hair immaculate. Nevertheless democracy has prevailed, as she said it would.

TIME U.K.

U.K. Edges Toward Departure from European Union

Prime Minister David Cameron walks with Mayor of London and Parliamentary candidate Boris Johnson at the Conservative party conference on Sept. 29, 2014 in Birmingham, England.
Prime Minister David Cameron walks with Mayor of London and Parliamentary candidate Boris Johnson at the Conservative party conference on Sept. 29, 2014 in Birmingham, England. Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images

As Britain's Conservative Party holds its last party conference ahead of May's general elections, the Euroskeptic message looks like a winning one

It’s hard to imagine anything more insular than a British party political conference—except, perhaps, for an island.

The ruling Conservative Party is currently meeting in the U.K.’s second largest city, Birmingham, but delegates tightly ringed by security and focused on the narrow issue of how to win the next election may as well be on a coral atoll for all the connection they have with the wider world.

Events in Hong Kong go unremarked. U.K. participation in the military campaign against ISIS barely merits a mention. A lone protestor standing beyond the crowd barriers bellowed rage against Britain’s fresh involvement in Iraq for hours Monday, but his words whispered in the convention center like distant waves. Even so, events on this artificial island may yet carry global significance. Britain is getting ever closer to the brink of leaving the European Union.

That is the probable outcome if the Conservatives win the U.K. general election next May, as they have pledged to allow Britain’s increasingly Euroskeptic population a referendum on whether to stay or go. Polls suggest a sizeable majority would vote to leave the E.U. under the current terms of membership.

Admittedly a Conservative victory is far from a sure thing in 2015. The Labour Party enjoys a lead of several points in most opinion polls and the Conservatives, in coalition with the Liberal Democrats since 2010, should expect to be punished by voters for implementing painful austerity policies that have reduced the budget deficit (but not by as much as they promised). But even though Labour may look like the likelier winner, it doesn’t act like it. Neither party members nor the wider public have faith in the current Labour leader Ed Miliband, who capped a lackluster conference last week by forgetting key chunks of the speech that should have energized his troops and instead demoralized them.

In truth all three mainstream parties are suffering from a loss of connection with the public — voters feel they’re untrustworthy, and incapable of championing Britain, whatever form that might take. This disenchantment is fostering the rise across Britain of populist parties that promise a new, more honest mode of politics and more localism. In Scotland this means the Scottish National Party strengthening largely at the expense of Labour, which will struggle to retain its 41 Westminster seats there at the coming election.

But in England, it is the anti-immigration, Euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) that has been attracting support on the back of its strident views, which it calls “unashamedly patriotic”. The party’s manifesto not only calls for departure from the European Union, but also restrictions on the numbers of immigrants entering the country, less foreign aid, and priority in the allocation of social housing given to “people whose parents and grandparents were born locally”.

It’s a message that appeals to many who might otherwise be inclined to vote for the Conservative party. The eastwards expansion of the E.U. was enthusiastically supported by past Conservative governments, because they thought a larger union might be less inclined to move towards federalism and consequent impingements on British sovereignty. But enlargement has increased the pool of E.U. citizens entitled to work in the U.K, and fostered resentment among conservative voters, as the British economy struggles to recover from the economic slump. UKIP has capitalized on that resentment; two Conservative MPs have recently defected to UKIP and more are rumored to be considering jumping ship.

“The biggest issue on the doorstep is immigration,” says Phillip Lee, the Conservative MP for Bracknell, west of London, “but this is also related to Europe.” His constituents would like to see an Australian-style points system applied to jobseekers from abroad, he says. That’s a policy UKIP already proposes for all immigrants, whether they come from the E.U. or further afield.

Even so, the Conservatives are better positioned than Labour—which opposes giving Britons a vote on E.U. membership—to fight UKIP on its own turf. Prime Minister David Cameron’s post-Scottish referendum promise of “English Votes for English Laws” plays to demands for more local control, while his party is ramming the message home at every opportunity during its conference that only a Conservative government will deliver an in-out referendum on the E.U. It will doubtless be a pivotal passage in Cameron’s keynote address to delegates tomorrow.

Cameron first made the offer partly in an effort to hold together a fractious party that has a long history of falling out over Europe. But his official position—that he wants Britain to remain in the E.U., but on renegotiated better terms—also happens to be his real preference, not least because many British businesses worry that an E.U. exit will load costs and obstacles on to their European operations. His ideal is to retain the advantages of E.U. membership while shielding Britain against moves to closer E.U. integration precipitated by the euro zone crisis. But in a BBC interview this morning, Cameron made clear that he wouldn’t be too upset if Britain left the E.U. entirely. The sales pitch being rolled out in Birmingham is clear: vote UKIP, get Labour, lose the chance of a referendum.

Despite what the polls say, many Conservatives believe this is a winning formula, and they could well be right. But the same urges the Conservatives would be tapping to win election victory would inevitably still be in play if and when Britons voted on their relationship with Europe. An exit would mean a period of extended turbulence for Britain and for the E.U., used to British intransigence but also used to Britain as a counterbalance to German muscle and French protectionism. The rest of the E.U. hopes Britain stays put, and so does Washington, which still often looks to the U.K. as a bridge to Europe.

British politicians hear these voices but their message, like the shouts of the man outside the Conservative Party conference, are muffled. This island nation with its parochial politics could well be headed for greater insularity.

TIME

U.K. Parliament Debates Joining U.S. Air Strikes Against ISIS

Prime Minister David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street before heading to The Houses of Parliament on Sept. 26, 2014 in London.
Prime Minister David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street before heading to The Houses of Parliament on Sept. 26, 2014 in London. Dan Kitwood—Getty Images

British MPs last year delivered a surprise rebuff to plans to intervene militarily in Syria, derailing not only U.K. policy but U.S. plans. Today they are weighing another intervention — and their decision matters more than you might think

What a difference a year makes. Friday, the U.K. Parliament has been recalled to debate joining a U.S.-led military intervention, the same topic that convened Members of Parliament for an emergency session on Aug. 29, 2013. Back then, everyone expected a majority of MPs to rubberstamp the action, just as the MPs gathered Friday in the House of Commons are predicted to approve today’s motion.

These scenarios may appear near-identical, but they differ in one glaring respect. When British parliamentarians served up a surprise and rejected involvement in the planned U.S. air strikes against the Syrian regime last year, they triggered a chain of events that saw U.S. President Barack Obama abandon his mission at the 11th hour in favor of a new round of diplomacy. The consequences of that swerve are still being assessed, leaving Syrian President Bashar Assad in power and, according to proponents of the intervention, allowing jihadist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) to grow. Others maintain that the aborted campaign would have simply fueled the jihadists’ rise. Another, wide strain of opinion in Westminster and among the British public looks back at Britain’s 2003 decision to join the U.S. in toppling Iraq’s Saddam Hussein as a profound error that must never be repeated.

These arguments are even now being rehashed. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron had barely begun his speech when he was interrupted by veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner who asked, scornfully, “How long will this war last and how soon will mission creep start?”

There are other such skeptics in the chamber — their numbers will become clear at around 5 p.m. London time, when MPs vote. But here’s one reason why that vote, irrespective of outcome, looks very different to the one that took place 56 weeks ago in the same chamber: the result won’t make a significant difference to American policy.

The U.S. Air Force has been running missions into Syria and Iraq since Monday alongside jets from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, targeting ISIS militants as well as infrastructure and supply routes used by the group now occupying extensive territory on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border. If British MPs go against predictions again to vote against joining in, these missions will continue. Moreover, the motion under discussion is limited in scope, committing the U.K. to air strikes in Iraq and specifically ruling out extending any action into Syria or deploying combat troops on the ground. Britain has received a direct request for assistance from the Iraqi government that proponents of the motion argue gives the proposed action legitimacy under international law that the strikes in Syria do not necessarily share.

Even so, what Britain decides matters—perhaps not as much as Britons reared on tales of Empire and World War victories are inclined to think, but enough that the U.S. has worked with the U.K. to ease the passage of the motion, accepting its limited nature and careful to say nothing that might make it more difficult for Cameron to unite his own Conservative Party on the issue, coax his Liberal Democrat coalition partners on board and, most importantly, to secure sufficient Labour Party support. It was Labour opposition that torpedoed the 2013 vote. This time around, Labour leader Ed Miliband issued a call to support the motion, partly on the basis that in asking countries in the region to engage, Britain needed to show a moral lead. He added that in helping to oust Hussein, “the Iraqi state that emerged is partly our responsibility.”

That history has made both Labour and Conservatives wary of appearing to yield too easily to pressure from Washington. Cameron acknowledged Obama had “made clear” he wants British support, but based the core argument for British participation on a humanitarian imperative and on British national interest. “If we allow [ISIS] to grow and thrive there’s no doubt in my mind that the level of threat to the country would increase,” he said.

U.S. officials have denied claims made this week by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of a specific threat by ISIS to attack subway systems in New York and Paris, but the U.S. and the U.K. are both worried about the possibility of blowback. Last month, Britain raised its terror threat level to “severe.” As Matthew Barzun, the U.S. ambassador to Britain, pointed out in an article in the London Evening Standard, published on the eve of the debate, as many as 12,000 citizens from 74 different countries are estimated to have gone to fight with rebels in Syria alone. British security chiefs believe at least 500 Britons have made the journey, including the ISIS member dubbed “Jihadi John,” shown in videos murdering U.S. and British hostages. Those murders and the threat to further hostages still held by the group have strengthened the appetite to tackle ISIS.

In case that appetite falters, the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour have all ordered their MPs to support today’s motion, deploying the so-called whip. Rebels can expect reprimands and will certainly be marked down as troublemakers by party officials. This, together with the restricted scope of the motion, should be enough to secure a positive outcome but will also add to the resonance if there is still a rebellion of any size.

Because another reason today’s vote matters is that it marks the beginning of a longer and more difficult decision-making process in a country that has lost faith in military interventions but is also alarmed by appeal of jihadism to its own citizenry. There is little agreement among the political parties about how to counter that trend, and they are divided over the possibility of any action in Syria. There will be a brief moment of clarity later today and, most likely, an announcement of British jets roaring into action. The bigger issue of the role Britain will play in the Middle East will remain urgent and unresolved.

TIME Jordan

Radical Muslim Cleric Abu Qatada Cleared of Terrorism Charges in Jordan

Abu Qatada
Radical Muslim preacher Abu Qatada sits behind bars at the Jordanian military court in Amman, Jordan, on June 26, 2014 Raad Adayleh—AP

The British Home Office insists the 53-year-old is “not coming back to the U.K.”

Radical Islamic preacher Abu Qatada has been acquitted of terrorism charges by a Jordanian court. He was deported to the Middle Eastern kingdom from the U.K. in 2013.

On Wednesday, a court in the capital Amman found him not guilty of plotting to carry out terrorist attacks on Western and Israeli targets in Jordan during millennium New Year celebrations, reports the BBC.

He was accused of providing “spiritual support” through his writings to those alleged to have plotted the attacks.

In June, the 53-year-old cleric was also cleared of a conspiracy to attack an American school in Amman.

Abu Qatada had been involved in a decadelong legal battle in the U.K. Government ministers repeatedly tried to deport him to Jordan so he could face the charges in his home country, but judges were concerned he could face torture if repatriated.

After the U.K. and Jordan signed a deal in 2013 stating evidence gathered against Abu Qatada obtained by British deportees in Jordan could not be used, British Home Secretary Theresa May secured his deportation.

“It is right that the due process of law has taken place in Jordan,” a spokesperson for the Home Office told the BBC.

In 1994, Abu Qatada was granted asylum in the U.K. but officials quickly saw him as a security threat.

British judges called him a “truly dangerous individual … at the centre in the United Kingdom of terrorist activities associated with al-Qaeda,” reports the BBC.

[BBC]

TIME Scotland

Scotland Votes to Stay the Same, and for Change

Yes vote campaigners console themselves outside the Scottish Parliament building after the people of Scotland voted no to independence on Sept. 19, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Yes vote campaigners console themselves outside the Scottish Parliament building after the people of Scotland voted no to independence on Sept. 19, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Christopher Furlong—Getty Images

The independence movement has lost the vote but won the argument

Updated: 3:17 a.m. E.T.

The U.K. remains just that, united. “I’m deeply disappointed like thousands across the country,” said Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s deputy first minister and a leading member of the Scottish National Party (SNP), which engineered the referendum. It was 5:30 a.m. and although the final tally had not been calculated, with 26 of 32 voting districts declared, the proponents of Scottish independence recognized defeat was now inevitable. Scots had voted by 55% to 45% in favor of retaining a status quo that has lasted 307 years.

So, a return to business as usual? Not after the surge in support for independence that today leaves almost half of Scotland, like Sturgeon, deeply disappointed. It will also taste bitter to independence movements across the world that had seen in Thursday’s referendum a model for their own efforts to shake free of a larger state. There is, said Sturgeon, “a clear appetite for change” and she’s right. Scotland may have opted for reform rather than revolution, but nobody who has observed the campaigns at close quarters believes this has given the U.K. government in Westminster a free pass to keep on keeping on as before.

For one thing, the three main Westminster parties — the ruling coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and the opposition Labour Party — came together to promise a greater devolution of powers to Scotland if voters agreed not to ditch the union. Now they must deliver. That means a new law by January 2015 expected at very least to give Scotland more control over taxation and social benefits.

There’s another reason change must come. Somebody has to figure out what to do with all that disappointment. Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, voted by 53% to break with the rest of Britain. So did its fourth largest, Dundee. Before the polls even closed, Scots were worrying about the aftermath of the vote. Francesca Kelsey, a 26-year-old who runs a small clothing business in Edinburgh, told TIME of the deep divisions that the referendum has opened. “You need to have some sort of unity to go forward,” she said. It’s not clear how that unity will be restored — or by whom.

Because the reason so many voted for an independent Scotland and so many more were tempted to do so, even if they eventually chose the devil they knew, is that the British political system leaves many citizens feeling alienated and disempowered. Influence is concentrated in Westminster, in the hands of a political class that has lost the trust of many voters. And so as Scotland eyed independence, there has been a groundswell elsewhere in the U.K. for change, for greater autonomy for England’s regions and for Wales and Northern Ireland, and also for something else — a new kind of politics.

That realization prompted U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron toward an old political maneuver, outflanking his opponents. Early this morning he hailed the Scottish decision in a statement outside 10 Downing Street, pledging that further devolution for Scotland would be matched by similar moves across the rest of the U.K., including within England. “We have heard the voice of Scotland and now the millions of voices of England must also be heard,” he said. The problem for Cameron, governing in an uneasy coalition and facing a general election in May 2015, is that it may well prove impossible to achieve political consensus, and constitutional change, on such a tight schedule.

On Thursday, Kay Simpson, a 54-year-old teacher, voted Yes in Edinburgh’s Leith neighborhood. The polling station was packed. “People are inspired,” she said, gesturing to the packed polling station. “Whatever happens, we want that to carry on with.” Voter turnouts have been falling in the U.K. for decades. The prospect of a vote that could actually deliver change, rather than just speak in hopey-changey slogans, galvanized a nation. Voter turnout at the referendum was 85%.

The union may be safe. The status quo is not.

TIME Scotland

LIVE: Scotland Votes to Stay in the U.K.

Only four Scottish constituencies voted in favor of seceding from the U.K.

Correction appended: Sept. 19.

Scotland rejected independence in Friday’s referendum count, with around 55% of voters choosing to stay within the U.K. The 307-year-strong union has survived, although increased powers will be devolved to the nation.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who spearheaded the Yes campaign, conceded defeat at around 6:17 a.m. local time. “On behalf of the Scottish government I accept the result and pledge to work constructively in the interests of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom,” he said.

“The process by which we have made our decision as a nation reflects enormous credit upon Scotland. A turnout of 86% is one of the highest in the democratic world for any election or referendum in history — this has been a triumph for the democratic process and participation in politics.”

Despite a hard-fought campaign, only four of the 32 local authority districts voted for independence, including populous Glasgow, although even in this key constituency the margin was not particularly large, in a devastating blow to the Yes camp.

The final bell tolled for secession advocates after Edinburgh voted to maintain ties with the south by 61%.

“I am delighted,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron, hinting that more devolved powers would also be rolled out to other British regions. “It would have broken my heart to see the United Kingdom come to the end.”

Alistair Darling, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer who led the No campaign, admitted that the closeness of the result was a wake-up call.

“Today is a momentous today for Scotland and the United Kingdom as a whole,” he said. “While confirming our place within the union, we have confirmed the bonds that tie us together — may they never be broken.”

Pubs across the country were staying open throughout the night with customers both anxious and excited to see whether the historic union would be consigned to the history books.

Greg Waddell, a doctor working in Glasgow, told TIME that he voted Yes “because disempowerment breeds dependency; because the current extent of social inequality in Scotland demeans every one of its people.”

Others among the 4.2 million registered voters were less optimistic about prospects for going it alone. Nick Allan, an oil executive from Aberdeen, said the Yes campaign promises were enticing, but he voted No as it would be impossible to pay for them — especially not with North Sea oil.

“The problem comes down to money,” he says. “How on God’s earth are you going to be able to afford all of these improvements? The country will be bankrupt in a matter of years.”

Many questions regarding what a truly independent Scotland would look like remained unanswered, including over currency, health care, defense and E.U. membership. Spain’s Prime Minister was one of several European leaders who said he would not support Scotland’s application to the bloc, as the Iberian nation was unwilling to fan separatist campaigns of its own.

These fears were echoed by Professor Michael Desch, an expert on foreign policy at the Notre Dame University.

“Ironically, a peaceful Scottish secession from the United Kingdom could open Pandora’s Box by raising unrealistic expectations about the ease of parting long-established national ways,” he said.

The vote captivated social media. Over the past 24 hours, 1.3 million people on Facebook in the United Kingdom made 3.3 million interactions regarding the Scottish referendum debate.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated where the 1.3 million people on Facebook had made 3.3 million interactions regarding the Scottish referendum debate. It was the United Kingdom.

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