Edinburgh woke up to a misty, murky morning. As the polls opened at 7am it felt like Scotland’s capital city was shrouded in mystery. It was a day on which anything might happen.
Edinburgh City Council’s confirmation that 89.6% of postal votes had been returned was an early indication of an extraordinary event. In many places queues had begun to form well before the doors opened.
The official turnout won’t be announced until the votes have been counted and verified, but activists were using words like ‘astronomical’ and ‘unprecedented’.
At James Gillespie’s Primary School, in Marchmont, the biggest polling station in Edinburgh South, one campaigner told me, "The vote is firming up and people are determined they are going to do what they are going to do."
When my wife went to vote this morning she described how two young men in kilts sang joyously as they went in. Married couples held hands while families brought their children with them to share in the moment.
A senior Labour politician even described how they had met a 60-year-old man who was voting for the first time.
The sense that this is a moment of history has touched people far and wide.
As I walked down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, from the Castle to Holyrood Palace, I saw Palestinian, Sardinian and Catalonian flags mingling with the Scottish Saltire.
An example to the world
By the early evening, hundreds had already begun to gather outside the Scottish Parliament for a rally that is likely to go on all night.
Adria Belwomte, a student from Barcelona, was among the crowds.
“We see Scotland as the one that leads the path for sovereignty. If you get independence we will got to the Spanish government and say look at what has happened in the UK. Look at how they have done it,” he said.
Roberto Carter had travelled from Sardinia to be here. “We are hoping for a change throughout Europe. Scotland is showing that peaceful change and independence is possible.”
It is impossible to tell what the result will be until the votes are counted, but being here has felt special.
Whether the decision is ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ , the idea that something as important as an international border can be redrawn throughout the ballot box, and without a shot being fired, is an example of democracy to the world.