09/19/2014 12:26 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:01 EDT

Scotland referendum: Alex Salmond to quit as leader of Scottish National Party

Scottish National Party Leader Alex Salmond said today he will step down as first minister of Scotland and resign as head of the party that led the campaign for independence.

Salmond, 59, told reporters at a news conference Friday he was proud of the campaign and the record turnout for Thursday's vote. "For Scotland, the campaign is not over, and the dream will never die."

Salmond was unbowed in his enthusiasm for an independent Scotland and its people.

"The real guardians of progress are no longer the politicians at Westminster or even at Holyrood, but the energized activism of tens of thousands of people who I predict will refuse to meekly go back into the political shadows."

Salmond said, however, that someone else should lead the process forward, and he would not stand for renomination as leader at the SNP's annual conference in mid-November.

"After that, I shall continue to offer myself as member for the Scottish Parliament for Aberdeenshire East."

Salmond, who led the independence campaign, spoke earlier in the day to concede the result in the referendum.

"Scotland has by majority decided not, at this stage, to become an independent country," he said. "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."

In the end, the No campaign won clearly with 55.3 per cent of registered voters, versus 44.7 per cent who voted Yes.

Salmond praised the Yes campaign, which at that point had counted roughly 1.5 million votes, as a "substantial vote for Scottish independence."

Salmond's impassioned effort to launch a new nation fell short, with Scots choosing instead the security of remaining in union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The referendum's result prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to Britain's economic and political establishment.

Vote details

The question on the ballot asked voters simply: "Should Scotland be an independent country?" and droves of voters turned out for their chance to weigh in on Scotland's future.

There were more than 4.2 million registered voters, which represents roughly 97 per cent of all eligible voters. Scotland residents as young as 16 were among the voters.

With all 32 centres reporting, there were 2,001,926 votes for No and 1,617,989 for Yes. Turnout was pegged at 84.6 per cent.

"This has been a triumph for the democratic process and for participation in politics," said Salmond.