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British Ambassador To U.S. Says Scottish Vote Is 'Decisive'


Peter Westmacott is Britain's Ambassador to the United States. Welcome. And the news is you'll continue to speak for Scotland. Good to see you.

PETER WESTMACOTT: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: Is a 55 percent majority against independence a ringing endorsement of the constitutional status quo in Britain? Or is 45 percent for independence an alarming measure of how many Scots think life would be better outside of the U.K.?

WESTMACOTT: I think 55 45 is a pretty decisive result. It's certainly a clearer one than a number of people thought or feared, depending on your point of view - even just a few days beforehand. So I think there's a clear message there. And what we now look forward to doing, I think - across all the political parties in the United Kingdom - is working together now that the referendum has taken place. To try to ensure that the U.K. continues to agree effectively together. But with, interestingly, a greater say in their future. And greater powers devolved, not only to the Scots, but also to the English and the Welsh and Northern Island. Although Northern Ireland is in a rather special category.

SIEGEL: This isn't a bargaining position that's designed to talk down the Scott's a bit. Do you think we're likely to see this?

WESTMACOTT: Doesn't seem to me that it's a bargaining position. I think what is is a position based on equity. And the fact that if you are going to go down the route of devolution, greater devolved powers for people in Scotland, then it's only right to do so for people elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

SIEGEL: The yes for independence campaign ran against the continued basing of the Trident nuclear submarine system in Scotland. That's Britain's nuclear deterrent force. In the coming discussions, is removal of Trident from Scotland completely off the table?

WESTMACOTT: It seems to me that in talking about devolved powers, we're not talking about the defense of the United Kingdom or our commitment to a NATO alliance. So it seems to me, at the moment, that is not an issue which is on anyone's agenda at the moment.

SIEGEL: If an independent Scotland had become part of the European Union, independence would've been a lot less daunting than it used to be. That is, EU members can travel, live, work anywhere in other member countries. I just wonder whether deepening European integration in the future is likely to inspire - who knows, Catalans, Walloons, Lombards - all sorts of people to tell their national governments give us a better deal, you know. Give us more autonomy or we'll walk.

WESTMACOTT: The referendum that we've just held over Scotland was the direct result of the election back in 2011, which gave the Scottish National Party a majority in those local elections. And the Prime Minister...

SIEGEL: In their regional parliament?

WESTMACOTT: In their regional parliament, in the local election. So there's a very, you know, clear link to a vote that was cast in the United Kingdom. And then the decision was taken by the government to address that in a democratic manner, and to give the people of Scotland a say about what they wanted for their future. I think we - you need to be careful about how you extrapolate from the Scottish example to other parts of the European Union, which have got different constitutional arrangements. And I think each country will look at this question from its own perspective.

SIEGEL: Earlier this week, had you been thinking about the message you would be delivering here this afternoon if independence had won in Scotland? And how to put some brave face on that outcome?

WESTMACOTT: (Laughter) I was certainly concerned during the week about where things were going. You know, I wasn't thinking solely about what I might say on National Public Radio...

SIEGEL: Yes, I realize that.

WESTMACOTT: A few days earlier - but of course it was a very prominent thing in my mind.


WESTMACOTT: I will let you into a little secret. My role as a government servant was, of course, to inform and explain, not to campaign. My private view - which of course I was obliged to keep to myself - was that I very much hoped that my country that the United Kingdom, that I have the honor to represent, was going to remain intact. So I am pleased that that is the outcome. I certainly was thinking about what were the different options? And where would we be going from here? I was thinking about a number of the implications. You mentioned defense. You mentioned the European Union. I was also a bit concerned about where Scotland would find itself. Given that Scotland, by being a part of the United Kingdom does have a seat at all the top tables around the world. I personally think that's very good for Scotland. It's part of the EU, it's part of the single market, and so on. So yeah, I was thinking about that, but fortunately I didn't have to get to the stage of working out exactly how I was going to put a brave face on the news.

SIEGEL: Ambassador Westmacott, thank you very much for talking with us.

WESTMACOTT: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: That's Peter Westmacott, who is Britain's ambassador to the United States. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.