Scotland referendum: Live Report

Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh (AFP Photo/Lesley Martin)
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Edinburgh (AFP) - 10:35 GMT - AFP IS CLOSING THIS LIVE REPORT after Scots rejected independence in a referendum that left the 300-year-old union between Scotland and England intact but the United Kingdom heading for a major shake-up that will give more autonomy to its constituent nations.

Despite a surge in nationalist support in the closing weeks of the campaign, the "No" camp secured 55.30 percent of the vote against 44.70 percent for the pro-independence "Yes" side.

After a campaign that fired up separatist movements around the world and stoked political passions across the country, turnout was 84.6 percent -- the highest ever for an election in Britain.

"No" campaigners across Scotland cheered and danced as the results came in the early morning and British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "delighted".

"It would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end," he said in a speech in front of Downing Street offices in London, looking visibly relieved after averting a humiliating defeat that could well have cost him his job.

The British government must now deliver on promises made in the heat of the campaign to give more powers over tax, spending and welfare to the devolved government in Edinburgh.

In his televised address, Cameron said he would offer all parts of the UK greater local control.

"Just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare, so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues," he said.

Many "Yes" activists watched dejected in the streets of the Scottish capital Edinburgh as the result emerged, although First Minister Alex Salmond urged them to take heart from the huge numbers -- 1.6 million -- who backed independence.

"I don't think any of us, whenever we entered politics, would have thought such a thing to be either credible or possible," the Scottish National Party (SNP) leader, who will continue to head the regional government, told supporters.

Read on to find out how a dramatic night unfolded across Scotland:

10:16 GMT - Devolved powers - More analysis from Tony Travers, Professor in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics (LSE), who says the strong turn-out for "Yes" means politicans at Westminster will now be unable to avoid devolving more powers to the regions of the UK.

"There's always a risk that if the Scots don't get what they want, they'll ask for another referendum - [the split] wasn't 70-30, it was 55-45," Travers says.

"So I think in the end the London politicians of all parties will have to give the Scots the degree of autonomy they now want.

"That will beg questions not only for Wales and Northern Ireland but also what happens now for England and that's the big challenge: what can England be given within the UK?"

Tax-raising powers

09:57 GMT - Tax-raising powers - Tony Travers, Professor in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics (LSE), says despite losing out in the referendum Scotland will gain new tax-raising powers for its parliament at Holyrood.

"It's a victory for David Cameron, Ed Miliband and the Westminster political class at one level: a week ago they thought they might have been about to see a large chunk of the United Kingdom vote to leave it," Travers says.

"Having said that, the Scottish nationalists have got quite a lot out of this: in fact they've got most of what they would have got as an independent country without the risks.

"What the major political parties in London have now promised Scotland is a whole range of tax-raising powers - including income tax powers which is a big thing to devolve to any part of the UK."

09:46 GMT - More federal UK? - Malcolm Bruce, a lawmaker from the "No"-supporting Liberal Democrats who represents the Gordon constituency of northeast Scotland in the British parliament, says the onus is now on the 'Yes' camp to back the idea of a more federal UK.

"I think an awful lot of people will be relieved, but there will be disappointed people on the other side," he tells AFP correspondent Robin Millard.

"What we've got to say to them is: we've said more powers, we've said a move towards a more federal UK, why not join that?

"But they've never done that. All they do is say independence or else, throw a load of abuse and never work on the detail -- which is why they've made a lousy case.

"Frankly, if they don't step up to the plate now, I think their credibility is just finished."

09:36 GMT - 'Gutted' - Michael, a 22-year-old student and "Yes" voter from Fife, believes that despite the defeat for his campaign the strong 44.70 turnout for 'Yes' will lead to Scotland getting more powers.

"I don't believe it's over, I believe that change is inevitable," he tells AFPTV's Robert Leslie in Edinburgh.

"Change has happened regardless of 'Yes' or 'No', Scotland's going to change, Westminster is going to change.

"All the eyes were on us and even if it didn't work out in our favour -- well it has worked out in our favour regardless of 'Yes' or 'No' -- we're going to have more rights."

Jan, a 58-year-old 'Yes' voter who works for a homeless charity, says she is "gutted" by the outcome.

"I'm disappointed, I'm gutted -- we're not talking about fighting people over this," she says. "I'm disappointed in people that voted No and people that I know that voted No, I'm disappointed, I really am.

"I think the Yes campaign was a really broad camp, it wasn't just about the SNP, it was Socialists, Greens, people who had never voted, people who are not allied to any political party were involved and I think they did a wonderful job to get the vote so close."

09:28 GMT - Better within the union - More reaction to the "No" vote coming in from the streets of Edinburgh, AFPTV's Robert Leslie reports.

Henry Emanuel, 35, was "No" voter who works in finance.

"I think that Scotland is in a better position within the union, I think the risks were absolutely huge if we had gone for independence," he says.

"I think the 'Yes' campaign failed to really explain to the people who voted 'No' what the risks will be.

"I like Alex Salmond as a person, I think he's a formidable campaigner, a very good politician but I think he needs to work a lot harder now to try to get the 'No' and the 'Yes' side together to build and even better and an even greater Scotland."

09:20 GMT - 'Stronger Europe' - Scotland's rejection of independence from Britain will help create a stronger and more unified Europe, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has said.

"I welcome the decision of the Scottish people to maintain the unity of the United Kingdom. This outcome is good for the united, open and stronger Europe that the European Commission stands for," Barroso said in a statement, AFP's Brussels bureau reports.

09:10 GMT - AFP ALERT: EU COMMISSION CHIEF BARROSO SAYS SCOTLAND VOTE 'GOOD FOR STRONGER EUROPE'

08:56 GMT - Spain 'very happy' - Spain is "very happy" Scotland has voted against breaking away from Britain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy says, as he faces down a bid by the Catalonia region for its own independence vote.

"We are very happy that Scotland is staying with us," Rajoy says in a recorded video message, hailing the result as positive for "the integration of the European Union", AFP's Madrid bureau reports.

08:53 GMT - AFP ALERT: SPAIN 'VERY HAPPY' AT SCOTTISH 'NO' VOTE: PRIME MINISTER

FULL WRITTEN CONSTITUTION?

08:25 GMT - Full written constitution? - Dr Andrew Blick, a lecturer in Politics and Contemporary History at King's College London, gives his reaction to the "No" vote and its likely consequences for the devolution of powers to the regions of the United Kingdom.

"The result of the vote is clearly important in what it does not mean: independence for one of the founding nations of the United Kingdom, that would have meant an end to the UK in the form we know it," says Blick.

"David Cameron will escape some of the more severe criticism of his handling of the referendum that he would have faced if he had lost, though in the long run his party's electoral prospects might have been better with Scotland outside the Union.

"However, the undertakings made in the last desperate phase of the campaign by the leaders of the Westminster parties will mean further drastic change for an intact United Kingdom, as confirmed by Mr. Cameron's statement.

"This issue cannot be contained to Scotland. The Scottish vote could possibly lead on to a full written constitution for a federal UK."

07:55 GMT - 'Dust ourselves off' - In a drizzly Edinburgh, people who have been up all night watching the referendum are walking home as others go to work or walking their dogs (including one lady with a greyhound wearing a 'Saltire' dog coat), reports AFP correspondent Katherine Haddon.

Outside the Scottish Parliament were "Yes" supporters Paddy Burns, 23, a barman from Edinburgh and Rikki Maclean, 32, a theatre manager from Kirkcaldy, with a group of people who had been round at a friend's house all night watching the results.

"We're generally not happy but we have to live with it, it's a democracy," says Paddy.

"They (the no voters) have said we're not up to the task of governing ourselves and that kills me.

"All we have to do is pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep making our voices heard until we get self-determination."

Rikki says the onus is now firmly on politicians at Westminster to deliver more devolved powers to Edinburgh.

"I think it's going to be really difficult and there's going to be a lot of people clanging their heads together," he says.

"But they [politicians] have seen there's an appetite -- they have to deliver [on reforms].

"If these powers aren't given, that will spark an even bigger upswelling of people."

07:37 GMT - AFP ALERT: SCOTTISH REFERENDUM TURNOUT A UK RECORD OF 84.6 PERCENT

07:24 GMT - AFP ALERT: SCOTLAND REJECTS INDEPENDENCE WITH 55.3 PERCENT VOTING 'NO': FINAL RESULT

LONDON STOCKS RALLY ON 'NO' VOTE

07:19 GMT - London stocks rally - The London stock market has rallied sharply in opening trades after Scotland voted to reject independence in a crucial referendum.

The British capital's benchmark FTSE 100 index gained 0.75 percent to stand at 6,870.41 points.

Elsewhere in Europe, Frankfurt's DAX 30 added 0.52 percent to 9,849.43 points and the Paris CAC 40 index won 0.60 percent to stand at 4,491.54 points compared with Thursday's close.

07:10 GMT - Crushing - More reaction from supporters of Scottish independence in Edinburgh - many are reacting with bitter disappointment after their hopes of breaking away from Britain were dashed, with some breaking down in tears in the streets, reports AFP correspondent Katherine Haddon.

"My feeling was just crushing, quite devastating," said 16-year-old Charlotte Darroch, who was watching the count in the capital wearing her school uniform, pinned with lots of "Yes" badges and with a Scottish flag wrapped around her shoulders.

"We all felt it was going to go the other way. I genuinely thought the feeling on the ground was different. I don't think people realised quite how important this was," she said.

Darroch said she was "very attached" to the cause and would not give up hope after a large minority -- 1.5 million people, or around a third of the electorate -- voted "Yes".

"This isn't the end of the 'Yes' campaign," she said.

06:55 GMT - Upset - This reaction to the "No" vote from a commuter on his way to work outside Haymarket railway station in Edinburgh, via AFP correspondent Alfons Luna.

"When I went to bed there were no results at all, but when I woke up at 5:30 it seemed pretty clear," said Danny Trench, 23.

"I'm a little bit upset. But things will be as they were, so my life is not going to change.

"I can't see another referndum, you never know what will happen in 20 years, but I can't see it now."

06:40 GMT - Two-year high - The British pound has hit a two-year peak against the euro, though it has now retreated slightly after official results showed that Scotland has rejected independence.

In Asian deals at 0140 GMT, the euro tumbled to 0.7810 pounds on initial returns pointing to a victory for the "No" camp.

That was the lowest level since July 2012 and compared with 0.7882 late in New York on Thursday.

At the same time, sterling jumped to a two-and-a-half-week peak at $1.6525, and also hit a six-year high of 180.71 yen.

However, at about 0530 GMT, the euro stood at 0.7840 pounds, while the pound pulled back to $1.6450 and 179.42 yen.

"Scotland has voted against independence overnight in a move that has removed a great weight from the shoulders of sterling," said economist Simon Smith at trading group FxPro.

06:21 GMT - New powers - British Prime Minister David Cameron has promised new powers for all parts of United Kingdom following the Scotland referendum.

"Just as the people of Scotland will have more power over their affairs, so it follows that the people of England, Wales adn Northern Ireland must have a bigger say over theirs," Cameron says in a speech in front of his office at 10 Downing Street.

"The rights of these voters need to be respected, preserved and enhanced.

"It is absolutely right that a new and fair settlement for Scotland should be accompanied by a new and fair settlement that applies to all parts of our United Kingdom."

06:16 GMT - Call for unity - Prime Minister David Cameron calls for unity after Scotland rejects independence in a historic referendum, saying that the argument has been settled "for a generation".

"Now is the time for our United Kingdom to come together and to move forward," Cameron says in a speech in front of his office at 10 Downing Street.

06:07 GMT - Cameron speaking - British Prime Minister David Cameron is giving a statement outside Downing St: "The people of Scotland have spoken and it is a clear result - they have kept our country of four nations together," Cameron says.

05:56 GMT - 'Right outcome' - Louise Fleming, 21, from Edinburgh, a 'No' campaigner, tells AFP's Catherine Haddon she is going from the count centre for a fry-up and then straight to bed.

How she feels? "Relieved."

"I've been up for over 24 hours. Yesterday was the most important day to make sure everyone turned out."

"Obviously It's going to take time (for unity), it's been such a divisive referendum, we have seen the outcome, we can't expect everything to be great tomorrow but the right outcome has occurred."

05:53 GMT - Deeply affected - Charlotte Darroch, 16, from Edinburgh, was spotted by AFP in her school uniform, tie pinned with lots of 'Yes' badges, Saltire wrapped around her shoulders.

"I'd say initially my feeling was just crushing, quite devastating. We all felt it was going to go the other way. I genuinely thought the feeling on the ground was different," Charlotte said.

"I don't think enough people realised quite how important this was."

"I've been very involved with the campaign for about a year. I felt very attached, very personal towards it, it deeply affected me and people around me."

05:31 GMT - Conceding defeat - "It's important to say that our referendum was an agreed and consented process and Scotland has by a majority decided not, at this stage, to become an independent country," Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond tells a rally of cheering supporters in Edinburgh.

05:20 GMT - SCOTTISH PRO-INDEPENDENCE LEADER ALEX SALMOND CONCEDES DEFEAT

05:16 GMT - Aberdeenshire says 'no' - Alex Salmond loses in his own back yard, our colleague Katherine Haddon makes a note. Aberdeenshire votes: 71,337 (39.6%) for 'yes' and 108,606 (60.3%) for 'no', with 102 ballots rejected.

05:11 GMT - SCOTLAND VOTES 'NO' TO INDEPENDENCE

05:08 GMT - Surprise about margin - Tory MSP Cameron Buchanan reveals to AFP in Edinburgh: "I'm not surprised that we won but i am surprised by the margin with which we won"

05:04 GMT - Humbled by support - Alistair Darling, head of 'no' campaign, posts on Twitter: "An extraordinary night. Humbled by the level of support and the efforts of our volunteers. Will give speech in Glasgow shortly."

04:59 GMT - Loud cheers - AFP's Katherine Haddon reports loud cheers and clapping from smiling 'no' campaigners in Edinburgh hall, couple of people unfurling Union Jacks as the results are in:

yes 123,927, no 194,638.

04:54 GMT - 'Shouldn't be long now' - Media at Edinburgh counting centre crowd around awaiting final results for city and country. "Looks like a foregone conclusion but shouldn't be too long now," AFP's Katherine Haddon says.

04:46 GMT - Sturgeon admits likely defeat - Scotland's First Deputy Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon admits on TV that her party's campaign for independence has likely been defeated as preliminary results indicate a decisive victory for the 'No' camp.

04:43 GMT - David Cameron tweets - David Cameron says on his Twitter account: "I've spoken to Alistair Darling - and congratulated him on an well-fought campaign."

04:36 GMT - Lively skirmish - AFP correspondent Katherine Haddon notices a lively skirmish between a couple of young 'Yes' campaigners and Edinburgh councillor Lesley Hinds (pro-union), at the Edinburgh count centre. They ask how to create a better Scotland assuming 'No' has won.

"We've got to have some answers". She says they need to discuss it when all the results are in. Gaggle of press looks on.

04:30 GMT - Preliminary results on BBC - "Scotland will vote to stay in the United Kingdom after rejecting independence," reads a statement on the BBC website, after preliminary results show 54.3 percent voting "No" and 45.7 percent voting "Yes".

04:22 GMT - BBC predicts 'No' win - BBC's forecast claims that Scotland has voted against independence

04:03 GMT - Sturgeon 'delighted' - Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tells Sky News in Glasgow: "I'm absolutely delighted, this is Scotland's biggest city and it has just voted decisively yes. that is hugely significant and as a Glasgow MSP I understand we won every single constituency in Glasgow. It underlines the point that is coming through very very loudly from the results tonight that there is a massive appetite for change in Scoltand and that exists here."

03:59 GMT - A 'yes' from Glasgow - It's a 'yes' to independence from glasgow. 194,779 to 169,347. No surprise there - Scotland's biggest city was bedrock of yes support, as our colleague Katherine Haddon points out.

03:55 GMT - Almost like poker - AFP's Robin Millard finds counting in Aberdeenshire almost like poker, with officials shuffling and dealing on one side of the counting tables, and on the other side, observers from the "Yes" and "No" camps sitting with their hands clasped, waiting to see how fortune falls.

03:39 GMT - Just a rumour - Our correspondent Katherine Haddon notices flurry of excitement at the count centre in Edinburgh as a rumour circulates that Alex Salmond is about to show up. Journalists flock to back door. But after about 15 minutes, it emerges that this was just a rumour. Shows you how fevered the atmosphere is.

03:31 GMT - 'No' piles grow in Salmond's area - In the Aberdeenshire count - Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond's area - the piles of "No" votes appear to be bigger than the piles of "Yes" votes, in early counting, as our colleague Robin Millard reports.

On Thursday, it was rumoured that Salmond might be turning up at the count, but here has been no sign of him and most photographers have left.

03:27 GMT - ''No' looking like favourites' - Polling expert John Curtice tells the BBC before the East Lothian and Stirling results:

"The evidence that the 'No' side are going to win is beginning to stack up. But equally however we also are beginning to look at a 'No' success that is nothing like as substantial as they probably expected when this referendum was called 18 months ago, or indeed what they might have hoped for a little less than two months ago. It certainly looks as though the yes vote is going to be quite substantial across Scotland, but as the opinion polls were indicating... the yes have not done enough to win this referendum. Still plenty to look out for, still by no means certain, but 'No' is certainly looking like the favourites to win."

03:19 GMT - Scottish Secretary comments - Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael talks to AFP about the results so far.

Concerning the "No" votes in Western Isles and Clackmannanshire "which were areas which the yes campaign would have wanted to win if they were going to get an overall majority. So at the moment, it's early days but it's looking fairly good."

Edinburgh: "all the indications I hear is that there is a no vote coming out of Edinburgh"

"Glasgow I would expect to be closer."

Any prospect of a 'No' there? "It's possible -- all the information I have is that it's quite close in Glasgow."

03:09 GMT - Votes in jeopardy - Our colleague Robin Millard has some interesting observations from Aberdeenshire:

Counters sort the votes into three baskets - "Yes", "No" and "Doubtful Papers".

Interesting to see the various ways in which people have put their vote in jeopardy.

Some have marked an X in both boxes; others were filled in like noughts and crosses; some had shaded a box in; one had written "Yes" in the "Yes" box; another wrote 100% with an arrow pointing to the "No" box; some have ticked outside the boxes.

One appeared to have written an "L" in the "Yes" box. "What is that supposed to be?" asked one amused onlooker.

After months and months of debate on a vote that decides the country's destiny; a few others had made it all the way to the polling booth, started to put a cross in one box, and then switched to put an X in the other one. Some had marked one box, then scribbled it out and filled in the other box.

Ultimately, the decision on any particular ballot paper rests with the counting officer. They have examples of classic doubtful ballots, some of which are allowed, such as circling an answer; others are rejected, such as an X in one box and a tick in another.

02:53 GMT - Inverclyde says 'No' - 'No' has won Inverclyde by just 86 votes:

Yes 27,243, No 27,329; turnout 87.4%

02:50 GMT - 'Result looks disappointing' - Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow and campaigner for independence, tweets: "Well the result looks disappointing. But losing the energy & motivation of people who've become re-engaged in politics would be even worse."

02:42 GMT - British pound surges - The British pound surges to a more than two-year high against the euro in early Tokyo trade, while it also rallies against the dollar as early results suggest Scotland will vote against independence.

02:34 GMT - 'More powers to Scotland' - Lord Steel, former Liberal leader, Scottish Parliament's first ever presiding officer, tells AFP he doesn't believe in "calling the outcome before it is clear".

But Steel, who is pro-union and anti-independence, did say the British government would now need to act properly on its promise to hand more powers to Scotland -- and also to reform UK institutions, eg action on the role of Scottish MPs who currently sit in the House of Commons (despite there being a Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh) and reforming the House of Lords to make it more like a senate.

02:26 GMT - Aberdeenshire turnout - Turnout of 180,045, or 87.2%, is just announced in the hall.

The Aberdeenshire count is the sixth-biggest of the 32 across Scotland, accounting for 4.8% of the national electorate.

Now the votes will be sorted into "Yes" and "No" piles.

02:21 GMT - No big centres declared yet - Our correspondent Katherine Haddon points out it may be looking good for the "No" camp at the moment but worth bearing in mind that none of the big population centres have yet declared -- only a small proportion of results in so far -- 28 declarations still to come.

02:13 GMT - Western Isles says 'No' - Western Isles votes:

Yes 9,195, No 10,544. 19 votes rejected.

02:02 GMT - 'Calm and serene' - Christian Allard, the French-born member of the Scottish Parliament, is at the Aberdeenshire count.

Dijon-born Allard, from Salmond's pro-independence Scottish National Party, represents the North East Scotland region in the Edinburgh parliament.

"What is historic is the turnout, which is fantastic. Not only the turnout, there are plenty of stories of people who are more than 60 years old who have voted for the first time," he tells AFP.

"I'm calm and serene. I'm happy, confident always!

"We're making sure that everything is going well, we've got a good sample and we've got a good idea" of how the vote might be shaping up.

01:58 GMT - Shetland result - Turnout 84.4%. Yes 5,669, No 9,951

01:52 GMT - 'No' expected from Edinburgh - Activists from both sides seem to think that Edinburgh will vote "No".

One "Yes" activist observing the count who had seen partial returns, admitted it was going to be "difficult" for them to win there.

A "No" activist also observing the count explained that, while there had been more "Yes" posters on display in many parts of the city, that was because people in Edinburgh tended to be reserved and "No" supporters just hadn't put many posters up.

"It's a conservative with a small c city," he said, but it was still likely to vote "No".

01:36 GMT - Reconciliation needed - At the count in Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, Robert Smith, lawmaker in the British parliament for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, tells AFP: "It's a time of relief that you've done everything you can and it's now in the hands of the electorate. There's nothing more you can do.

"I always want to wait and see what the real electorate thinks.

"It will be crucial to have a period of healing, whatever the result," the "No"-supporting Liberal Democrat added.

"People have maybe got over-zealous in pursuing the campaign.

"It's such a binary issue, people's expectations have been raised so whichever side wins, there needs to be reconciliation to keep the country together."

01:32 GMT - Orkney result - Result from Orkney, the second area to declare: No 10004; Yes 4883.

01:21 GMT - Glasgow turnout - Glasgow City Council reports local turnout at 75%

01:18 GMT - Better Together 'not worried' - A senior figure in Better Together camp tells AFP: "There's nothing I've seen so far that makes me worried."

01:12 GMT - More turnout figures - West Lothian 86.2%

Midlothian 86.8%

Shetland 84.4%

01:05 GMT - Sign of nerves - Announcing the first result (Clackmannanshire, which went 'No') at the counting centre just outside Edinburgh, Scotland's chief counting officer Mary Pitcaithly stumbles slightly over her words - perhaps a sign of nerves. She will, after all, know the outcome of this nail-biting referendum before almost anyone else.

01:01 GMT - Sandwiches have arrived - Our colleague Katherine Haddon says: "The sandwiches have arrived for those counting the votes in Edinburgh. It's going to be a long night."

00:46 GMT - First declarations - AFP's Katherine Haddon reports on the first declarations.

Clackmannanshire:

Yes 16,350

No 19,036

00:29 GMT - Campaign observers - At the count for rural Aberdeenshire, being held in the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, counters are watching election officials unfold and stack up the ballot papers from particular polling stations, AFP's Robin Millard tells us. Observers from both campaigns are counting up the "Yes" and "No" votes as they are piled up to check the total number of ballot papers matched the total number of votes issued from that polling station.

Observers are trying to tally up how the poll went at each polling station as it comes in to get a rough indication of how the vote went in that area.

The campaign observers, who have been out on the ground, will have a rough idea of what to expect from each area, and so can measure their rough counts against what they might have expected from a certain village.

The process is purely for a sample indication.

00:22 GMT - Aberdeenshire count - Malcolm Bruce, deputy leader of the "No"-supporting Liberal Democrats, who represents the local Gordon area in the British parliament, tells AFP: "It looks pretty good for the 'No' side," based on very early indications from observers.

"This is Alex Salmond's heartland. I think he's been rejected in his own backyard."

23:58 GMT - Fraud allegations - News breaking that police are investigating allegations of electoral fraud in Glasgow. Officials at the referendum count in Glasgow say they are investigating 10 cases of suspected electoral fraud at polling stations.

Media reports say it relates to incidents where people turned up to vote and were told they had already voted.

23:47 GMT - Turnout figures - First turnout figures for a couple of areas have just been announced at the count centre in Edinburgh.

In Orkney the turnout was 83.7 percent, in Clackmannanshire 88.6 percent, fitting the trend of what is expected to be extraordinarily high participation.

23:42 GMT - Tribal chief - AFP's Katherine Haddon, at the Edinburgh count centre, says journalists there face a long wait as officials concentrate on the business of counting the huge numbers of ballot papers. But they are not without diversions:

"In the Edinburgh count hall, Benny Wenda, a campaigner for West Papua to be independent from Indonesia, is drawing plenty of attention from journalists, wearing a tribal chief's headdress featuring the head of a bird of paradise," she tells us.

He is in Scotland with the Radical Independence Campaign but normally lives in Oxford and is one of many separatists from other nations who hope the Scottish vote will mobilise support for their own independence battles.

"I'm campaigning for an independence referendum for my people," says Wenda.

23:30 GMT - Roundup - In case you are just joining us, counting is now under way at each of Scotland's 32 polling stations, with the first results expected from around 2am local time. The final vote will not be announced until after 6am, but a running total may well make it possible to call the result before then.

Officials have reported an unprecedented turnout -- up to 90 percent in some areas, with postal votes also high -- and many people have hailed it a victory for democracy, whatever the outcome.

A YouGov poll released after the close of polling predicted a victory for the "No" campaign of 54 percent to 46 for "Yes". But this hasn't stopped large crowds of pro-independence supporters gathering expectantly in Glasgow's George Square and outside the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh.

23:13 GMT - The polls may not appear to be in the "Yes" camp's favour, but the pro-independence campaign is celebrating one small victory:

"As the polls close, total likes on the @YesScotland Facebook page have passed David Cameron's one. 'indyref #voteYes," the campaign's official Twitter account declares.

22:55 GMT - Bookies expect 'No' - Since the close of voting, betting markets have shifted considerably towards a 'No' vote. Bookmakers Ladbrokes said the latest odds were 1/7 'No' 9/2 'Yes'.

22:44 GMT - George Square - In Glasgow, the central George Square is awash with blue and white flags, as thousands of independence supporters await the results.

Globe and Mail correspondent Mark MacKinnon tweets: "On Glasgow's George Square. Crowd waiting for the official count, and hoping the #indyref polls are wrong..."

Other twitter users have posted videos and pictures of flares being lit and flags burned.

22:24 GMT - Looking ahead - Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael has invited the SNP to join discussions on more powers for the Scottish Parliament if there is a "No" vote.

He tells STV: "If we have got a no vote as I hope… that's something I would want people from the SNP to be involved in."

Alluding to what at times has been a fiercely fought campaign, he adds: "We have got to heal the wounds that we have inflicted on ourselves."

22:19 GMT - Queen 'watching' - Royal officials tell Britain's Sky News that Queen Elizabeth is watching the referendum results "very closely". Publicly, she has stayed out of the debate, saying it was "a matter for the people of Scotland".

22:13 GMT - Ballot boxes arrive - AFP's Katherine Haddon, in Edinburgh, tells us: "First ballot boxes from polling stations are starting to arrive at the Edinburgh count. In the hall, "Yes" and "No" supporters, some in t-shirts advertising their allegiance, a couple in kilts, cluster in groups chatting to each other, looking anxious. It's going to be a long night."

22:02 GMT - At the Aberdeen count centre representatives from both the "Yes" and "No" campaigns watch on, trying to get a sample feel of the number of votes cast at this stage.

This is one of the biggest counts in the country and First Minister Alex Salmond's vote will be among those counted when the ballot box from his rural home village of Strichen arrives.

21:59 GMT - Aberdeen count - AFP's Robin Millard is at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre, where the count for rural Aberdeenshire is taking place. The votes from Aberdeen city are being counted in a separate venue in Scotland's oil capital.

"At the stroke of 10pm, when the polls closed, counting officials immediately went into action," he tells us.

"Boxes of postal votes were tipped out onto the tables and officials in white t-shirts, with blue plastic thimbles for extra purchase on each ballot, began counting the number of votes in piles of 100 to make sure they matched the given tally.

"Plastic boxes filled with sweets are on hand to keep the counters going. With the first piles complete, they drummed their fingers on the tables in anticipation of many, many more."

21:53 GMT - Chairman of the Yes Scotland campaign Dennis Canavan tells Scottish television station STV: "Some people may be super-optimistic… I'm a bit more of a realist, I still think it's neck and neck."

21:51 GMT - YouGov poll - The first results predictions are in from pollster YouGov. Ahead of today's vote, the latest polls put the two camps roughly neck and neck. Now YouGov predicts 46 percent Yes, 54 percent No.

21:45 GMT - Esin, a 35-year-old office worker, has brought her eight-year-old son to Holyrood to soak up the atmosphere for a while. She says: "I do honestly feel that the independence is the best thing for my country, for my child".

In the case of "No" vote she says: "I would be absolutely devastated". But either way, "this vote will change the way people react to politics, how they vote."

21:40 GMT - Virgin voters - "We are more passionate. We are more enthusiastic" than the 'No' camp, says 17-year-old Cailib Wall. He is one of the generation of young people voting for the first time, in a referendum which extended the franchise to include 16 and 17-year-olds.

"We are going to stay out till the result", expected in the small hours of the morning, says his friend Dylan McDonald, also 17. They are congregating in Edinburgh's Kilderkin pub which, like many in the city, will stay open all night.

Already the lively bar is packed with people of all ages, as the band plays Europe's "The final countdown" and the beers flow.

21:32 GMT - Holyrood crowds - In Edinburgh, around 200 people are gathered outside the Scottish parliament building in the Holyrood area of the city and more are flocking in. All of them are independence supporters, AFP's Ouerdya Ait Abdelmalek tells us.

Mixed in with the blue and white Scottish Saltires are a handful of Welsh and catalan flags. And there's the obligatory man playing bagpipes.

21:21 GMT - Flag burning - In Glasgow, crowds are filling George Square, where supporters of independence have been gathering all day.

According to reports on Twitter, the Union Jack flag which flies at the war memorial there has been ripped down and burned by "Yes" voters.

"No" voter Jamie Macfarlane posts a picture that purports to show the British flag being torched, and tweets: "Pakistan? North Korea? No... Glasgow. Where Yes supporters are burning the Union Jack. Nationalism is frightening."

21:13 GMT - Counting begins - The Edinburgh count has now started. They will start by counting postal votes, with the first ballot boxes from polling stations starting to arrive in around half an hour's time.

A result for Scotland's capital, which accounts for nearly nine percent of the total share of Scotland's votes, is expected at around 5am local time.

21:09 GMT - Unprecedented turnout - Officials have put the overall turnout at 80 percent, but there are reports on Twitter of one polling station closing early after a 100-percent turnout.

Whatever the result, for many this will be seen as one of the greatest achievements of the referendum.

21:03 GMT - And the counting begins...

At the counting centre in Edinburgh, Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael -- a "No" campaigner -- walks into the main counting/announcement hall, a big smile on his face, AFP's Katherine Haddon tells us.

21:00 GMT - POLLS CLOSE IN SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM

20:40 GMT - Fraserburgh polling - Much of the focus will be on Scotland's biggest voting areas, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Fife. But voters in all corners of the country have been engaged in the process.

AFP's Robin Millard, who has been in the northeastern fishing port of Fraserburgh, tells us: "Some young men drove around with two royal standards of Scotland -- the yellow flag with a red lion rampant -- flying out of the windows and a "Yes" sticker in the back window honking the horn.

"Outside one Fraserburgh polling station, an independence supporter wearing a kilt and sporran and a "Yes" badge on his top stood outside to greet voters. An 80-year-old woman who had never voted before in her life was among those who cast their ballots."

20:34 GMT - Counters ready - At the Royal Highland Centre, the counters for Edinburgh -- Scotland's second largest voting area -- are in place and waiting for the ballot papers to start arriving after polls close.

The stage is also set up for where the national results will be announced. TV crews are in place, lights on, anchors readying themselves for when polling ends in half an hour.

20:28 GMT - 'Political tourists' - A group of six young people from Quebec have pitched up at the polling centre in east Edinburgh.

"We're political tourists," explains Geneviève Gendron-Nadeau. "Perhaps a nation will be born here tonight. When you're interested in politics, it's exciting."

20:23 GMT - 'Motivated' voters - AFP's Ouerdya Ait Abdelmalek is at a polling station in the east end of Edinburgh where she says voters are still pouring in, with less than an hour to go.

"It has been a very busy day. People have been very motivated," the chief polling officer tells her. He puts the turnout at around 80 percent.

20:15 GMT - What next? - After votes have been tallied, the counting officer in each of Scotland's 32 local authority areas will deliver the result to the chief counting officer, Mary Pitcaithly, in Edinburgh. She has to give her approval before the area can announce its result.

When the results of all the areas are known, the chief counting officer will declare the referendum result at the Royal Highland Centre. It will be decided by a simple majority.

While the final result will not be known until after 6am local time, the running total could give an indication some time before that.

20:06 GMT - Long wait - Although there is some activity at the count centre, there is still a long wait ahead. First results are expected at around 2am local time (01:00GMT) including from the remote Western Isles and North Lanarkshire, in the busy central belt between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Counters at the ready

20:00 GMT - AFP's Katherine Haddon has arrived at the count centre on the outskirts of Edinburgh where she says journalists from around the world are beginning to converge.

She tells us: "Media from across the globe have descended on Scotland in the past few days from everywhere from Spain to China and Canada, where the story is being followed eagerly.

"The Royal Highland Centre, where the count is taking place, doesn't usually host this kind of thing -- other upcoming events here include a quilt fair and a dog show."

19:55 GMT - Glasgow gathering - In Glasgow, with just over an hour to go until polls close, the main square is already filling up with crowds of people in high spirits.

Peter Smith @petersmith96 tweets: "George Square starting to fill up. Horns going, flags flying, bikers revving. You'd think Scotland just won the World Cup."

19:45 GMT - Hollande slams separatism - Earlier French President Francois Hollande also weighed into the debate. He told a news conference in Paris that Europe was under threat from "selfishness, populism and separatism".

"Who can say what the result... will be of this referendum, which could decide the future of the United Kingdom but also of Europe?"

19:38 GMT - Separatists unite - More details are coming in from the press conference of separatist movements, who have gathered in Edinburgh to declare their own right to self-determination.

A joint declaration has been signed by 29 European separatist movements, saying: "We recommit ourselves fully to the principle of self-determination and recognise the right of stateless nations to decide upon their own feature."

Signatories included Catalan separatist parties who want to split from Spain and the nationalist party of the island of Corsica, which campaigns for independence from France.

19:28 GMT - Referendum prayers - Some are hoping for divine inspiration, with churches opening their doors for prayer throughout the day. One Edinburgh church, St John's, posted a sign saying prayers would be said "on the hour" throughout the hours of polling.

The Church of Scotland, the biggest religious group, has condemned the tone of the campaign and has called a religious service for Sunday to promote national reconciliation.

19:20 GMT - Final hours - Less than two hours left until the polls close. From 21:00 GMT the counting begins in each of Scotland's 32 local authority areas, with helicopters and boats being used to transport ballot boxes to the most remote areas of the country.

World's separatists unite

19:05 GMT - 'Vote for Quebec' - Speaking at the separatists press conference, Daniel Turp, of Parti Quebecquois, says he hopes the vote will be conclusive for independence campaigners and draws parallels with Quebec's own battle.

He says: "This is about the right of self-determination. And it applies to humans individually, that's why we have the right to be here, we have the right to intervene.

"This referendum is not about being xenophobic or being against the curse of history, this is about being free.

"Scots, please, vote yes, for yourselves, but also for us."

19:00 GMT - Catalonia watching - Not only is this a momentous day for Scotland, but it is being closely watched by independence movements in other nations.

AFP's Alfons Luna has been at a press conference at an Edinburgh hotel, hosted by separatist movements in Quebec and Catalonia.

Josep María Terricabras, of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), tells journalists there: "This is a feast for democracy. Is it something to be afraid of? If Europe is afraid of that, I don't like this Europe. This can't scare anyone, should not.

"If it finishes bad, we can repeat, we will insist and we'll be on their side. If your wife or husband beats you, one day he might tell you 'I will love you tremendously' to be forgiven, and you could think that maybe you could have more children. But no, the Scots can't have more children with the English and the Catalans can't have more children with the Spanish."

18:55 GMT - 'Victory for democracy' - Votes have been cast at some 5,579 polling stations, with nearly 4.3 million people -- around 97 percent of the Scottish electorate -- registered to vote in the referendum.

Many people have hailed it as a great victory for democracy.

David Cruckshank, a 40-year-old lawyer in Edinburgh, tells AFP: "Families have been divided but it has also been a wonderful democratic process where today possibly 97 percent of those eligible to vote are going to be turning up to vote."

18:49 GMT - Great expectations - AFP's Katherine Haddon, who has been following events in Edinburgh, tells us: "Life has carried on pretty much as usual but with an extraordinary sense of expectation about what the future might hold.

"'Yes' supporters are more visible as they have been throughout the campaign, here in Edinburgh at least. I saw several mothers out with small children who had giant 'Yes' stickers on their backs. One lady working in a shop told me she was coming into work tomorrow on her day off just to see peoples' reactions.

"There were 'Yes' and 'No' campaigners leafleting commuters on their way home at Haymarket train station, targeting those who might be going home to vote before polling stations close at ten."

18:36 GMT - Families divided - Some voters are just glad it's all over after what many say has been a divisive campaign. In recent days the campaigns have appeared to become increasingly heated on both sides.

Alistair Eastern, a 60-year-old pensioner, after voting in Edinburgh, says: "The damage this referendum has done to Scotland, splitting families, splitting communities, is really quite frightening.

"I think the bitterness that this campaign has caused is going to last a long, long time."

18:22 GMT - Historic day - Since dawn, streams of people across Scotland have been coming out to vote, with officials predicting an 80 percent turnout.

Some have been dressed in traditional kilts, tartan hats, or waving the Scottish Saltire flag. But many have simply turned up and quietly cast their vote on a pivotal day in Scotland's history.

Aidan Ford, 23, after voting in Glasgow city centre, tells AFP: "I felt different today than most of the previous votes. I might be making a difference and my vote counts."

17:59 GMT - Welcome to AFP's live report on the historic referendum in Scotland, where voters are deciding whether their country should stay in the United Kingdom or end a centuries-old union to become an independent nation.

After much heated campaigning and impassioned debate, voters have turned out in unprecedented numbers to cast their ballots, with queues snaking round polling stations from the early hours.

Now the undecideds have only a few hours to go to make their choice and answer "Yes" or "No" to the question on the ballot paper: "Should Scotland be an independent nation?".

Counting will begin when polls close at 10:00pm (21:00GMT), with the official result expected from 06:00am, but a running total from the 32 local authority areas of Scotland could indicate sooner which way the vote will go.

So stay with us as we follow all the developments, with updates from our correspondents in Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

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