Scottish voters have rejected independence from the rest of the United Kingdom by a margin of almost 10 percentage points, official results show.
With 31 out of 32 regions declared on Friday, 55.42 percent had voted against going it alone compared with 44.58 who wanted Scotland to break the 300-year-old union with England.
Clackmannanshire was the first region to declare results, with the No campaign securing 54 percent against 46 percent for the Yes side.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Orkney and Shetland also favoured the No campaign. Dundee City and Dunbartonshire voted Yes.
Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee, reporting from Edinburgh, said the early results matched almost exactly the exit poll figure.
“We can see where the wind is blowing. There are more polls coming but the early indication shows it’s a No night”
More than 4.2 million people had registered to vote in the country of 5.3 million people. including, for the first time, 16 and 17-year-old.
Before voting ended at 21:00 GMT on Thursday, polling stations across the country reported a high voter turnout, some as high as 90 percent.
The campaign fired up many Scots who had previously taken little interest in politics. About 97 percent of eligible Scots registered to vote.
“This is the first time I’ve felt that my vote can actually make a major difference, not just a bit of political shifting but actual substantial change,” one female voter told Al Jazeera.
The question for voters was “Should Scotland be an independent country?” and they were asked to mark either “Yes” or “No”.
On the eve of the referendum, the battle for Scotland had all the trappings of a normal election campaign: “Yes Scotland” and “No, Thanks” posters in windows, buttons on jackets, leaflets on street corners and campaign cars cruising the streets blasting out Scottish songs and “Children of the Revolution”.
The independence movement said Scots should be able to choose their own leaders and make their own decisions rather than be ruled from London.
Many of those who voted for independence felt that being governed from the Westminster parliament had opened too wide a gap between rich and poor.
The prospect of breaking up the UK, the world’s sixth-largest economy and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, prompted citizens and allies alike to question what would be left.
British politicians, banks and businessmen closed ranks to warn of economic hardship, job losses and investment flight should Scots decide to go it alone.
Defence was also be a big question – Britain’s submarine-borne nuclear arsenal, part of NATO’s defences, is based in Scotland’s Firth of Clyde.
European leaders had warned that an independent Scotland would have to get to the back of the queue to join the EU. Spain has been especially vocal, fearing it would further inspire separatists in Catalonia and the Basque Country,
Gordon Brown, former British prime minister, who is himself a Scot, told a No campaign rally that the quiet majority of pro-Union Scots “will be silent no more”, while Alex Salmond, pro-independence leader and Scottish first minister, urged voters to seize a democratic opportunity 307 years in the making.
A Yes vote would have led to months of negotiations between Scotland and the British government over the messy details of independence, which would have taken effect on March 24, 2016, the anniversary of the date in 1707 that Scotland decided to unite with Britain, according to Scottish authorities.