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Scotland's historic vote; Only two areas vote no to tax-varying powers
Saturday 13 September 1997
Two of the 32 council areas by which the counting was organised returned "No" votes, and they were both on the question of tax-varying powers. Orkney was one of the first council areas to declare, with 53 per cent rejecting the fiscal responsibilities. Dumfries and Galloway in the south- west registered 51 per cent opposition.
The results show that support for giving powers to Edinburgh tended to become weaker the further voters were from Glasgow. Orkney, in the far north, is an independent-minded community, where beef cattle farming has suffered recently, and although neighbouring Shetland returned a double "Yes", it was by a relatively narrow margin.
Though small in number, the islanders' oil industry has immense economic significance for Scotland. There were real concerns in the "Yes" camp that both island groups might vote "No" on both counts, until their Liberal Democrat MP, Jim Wallace, promised earlier this week that he would push for an amendment to the Scottish parliament bill ensuring extra powers for the northern isles. After talk three years ago of the northern isles demanding their own assembly, the plans for an Edinburgh parliament were altered to give the islands an extra member.
Jim Sinclair, vice-convenor of Orkney Islands Council, said, "Orcadians don't like change for change's sake. They like to be convinced that what they're changing to is something better than they had before. Jim Wallace's amendment almost certainly swayed the balance. It's by no means passed yet, but let's hope that the result sends a signal."
Dumfries and Galloway is made up of two Westminster constituencies, both of which were gained by the Scottish Nationalists from the Conservatives on 1 May. It's "No" vote reflected not only a relative lack of enthusiasm among rural voters but also that the "No" campaign had some limited success in focusing its message on the tax issue in traditionally Tory areas, including Perth and Kinross, East Renfrewshire and Aberdeenshire, and in the area where tax differentials with English neighbours will be most felt, the Scottish Borders.
Calum Macdonald, the Western Isles Labour MP, had a dig at the SNP yesterday morning, saying the areas where the party is strongest had significantly lower support for the two questions than Labour areas. That, however, is likely to reflect the fact that all six Westminster seats the SNP holds have previously been Tory held and are largely rural.
What else became clear from the results was that the recent news and allegations concerning political sleaze in areas where Labour dominates - in Paisley, Govan, Glasgow and Monklands - did not damage the Government's cause in those areas.
The four councils which registered more than 80 per cent backing for a Scottish parlia- ment were all Labour strongholds in west central Scotland. West Dumbartonshire, on the north of the Clyde, registered the highest pro-parliament vote, with a 69 per cent margin.
Eleven per cent of voters chose to split their votes "Yes/No", with a markedly similar pattern around Scotland. This was despite the absence of any "Yes-No" campaign.
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