First Minister Alex Salmond delivers his concession speech to supporters at Our Dynamic Earth on September 19, 2014 in Edinburgh. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Salmond hints at second independence referendum in concession speech

The First Minister says Scotland has chosen not to become an independent country "at this stage". 

An emotional Alex Salmond has just delivered his concession speech from Edinburgh. He began by thanking Scotland for "1.6 million votes for Scottish independence", a line which brought to mind Tony Benn's declaration after the 1983 election that it was a triumph to have secured eight million votes for socialism. 

With No achieving victory before the counting was even over, this wasn't the neck-and-neck race that the nationalists craved. But Salmond moved immediately to suggest that they could have another chance in the future. "Scotland has, by a majority, decided not, at this stage, to become an independent country," he said. The words "at this stage" were a barely disguised reference to the "neverendum" that the Unionists fear. After a closer result than most predicted two years ago, Salmond signalled that he believes there is potential for a second vote in the near future. With the Scottish parliament now certain to win more powers, this canny gradualist believes he has taken another step towards his ultimate goal. 

Whether there is another referendum at some point will likely depend on the ability of the SNP to repeat its extraordinary 2011 feat of winning a majority at Holyrood (an outcome thought impossible due to the proportional AMS voting system). It is doubtful that Salmond himself will fight another independence campaign. As I reported yesterday, nationalists believe that the 59-year-old will soon pass the torch to his 44-year-old deputy Nicola Sturgeon. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The NS Podcast #226: Fiction and Fees

The New Statesman podcast.

Helen and Stephen discuss the row over student fees and what it means for Corbyn's electoral prospects. They also recommend their top TV shows to catch up on this summer. Plus, a selection of our magazine writers pick their favourite political fiction.

 

Quotes of the week:

 

Stephen on the West Wing: "It's ultimately not the West Wing's fault that people took a brilliant, high-class soap opera and decided it was a manual for how to revive the centre left in Britain."

 

Helen on tuition fees: "Where I think this issue is important is the clue it gives to what the Tory attack on Jeremy Corbyn for the first half of this parliament is going to be, which is an attack on his integrity."

 

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