EDINBURGH (AFP) - Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond on Friday conceded defeat in his party's campaign for independence, while insisting there was "substantial" support for breaking away from the United Kingdom.
With all but one of 32 regions declared, the Scottish National Party (SNP) leader said he now expected the British parties to make good on promises to give the devolved government in Edinburgh more power.
"It's 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," Mr Salmond told a rally of cheering supporters in Edinburgh.
"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."
Mr Salmond hailed the turnout as a "triumph for the democratic process and participation in politics" after an estimated turnout of more 80 per cent, "one of the highest in the democratic world".
He also hinted that his battle to break from the United Kingdom was not over, highlighting the 1.54 million "Yes" votes - some 45 per cent of those who voted - which he said was a "substantial vote for Scottish independence".
"I don't think any of us, whenever we entered politics, would have thought such a thing to be either credible or possible," he said.
Mr Salmond said he would be speaking after his speech to British Prime Minister David Cameron, who himself was due to make a televised address to the nation shortly.
And he called on Mr Cameron and the leaders of the other two main British political parties to swiftly implement proposals to hand more control over income tax and welfare to the Scottish government.
"On behalf of the Scottish government I accept the result and I pledge to work constructively in the interests of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom," he said.
"The unionist parties made vows late in the campaign to devolve more powers to Scotland. Scotland will expect these to be honoured in rapid force," he said to cheers.
This timetable included drawing up legislation setting out the new powers in time for a debate in the Westminster parliament as soon as March, he said.