Scotland has decisively rejected independence by winning more than half of the votes polled, concluding an intensely-fought campaign that threatened to tear asunder the 307-year-old United Kingdom.
With 31 out of the country's 32 council areas having declared results, the margin of victory was about 55% to 45%. Glasgow, Scotland's largest council area and the third largest city in Britain, voted in favour of independence, while capital Edinburgh, rejected it.
As many people across the country heaved a collective sigh of relief, the implications of the rejection were beginning to come to the fore: Westminster will have to deliver the promises of more powers to Scotland in the near future, made during the closing stages of the campaign.
“I accept the verdict of the people. We now face the consequences of the decision. Scotland will now expect the vows made by unionist parties to give more powers to be delivered,” said Alex Salmond, Scotland first minister and leader of the Yes campaign.
The verdict is expected to lead to a more federal United Kingdom, with more powers to Wales, Northern Ireland and England, along the lines of those to be handed over to Scotland.
Britain gets credit for smooth handling of Scotland debate
Former prime minister Gordon Brown emerged as the main figure in the 'No' campaign with at least three passionate speeches towards the closing stages of the campaign, reviving his flagging political career.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he had congratulated Alistair Darling, leader of the Better Together campaign, while Nicola Sturgeon, one of the top Yes campaign leaders, expressed her ‘deep personal and political disappointment’.
The turnout for Scotland's historic independence referendum could be the highest ever in the United Kingdom, for a vote on the future of the centuries-old union.
Some ballot boxes were brought by helicopter and others by boat from remote islands to be counted after polls closed, agency reports said.
The closure of the airport on the Isle of Lewis due to fog meant ballot boxes would have to make the slower journey by fishing boat.
The question for voters at Scotland's more than 5,000 polling stations was "Should Scotland be an independent country?" and they were asked to mark either "Yes" or "No".
A palace spokesperson told Sky news Queen Elizabeth II was following events from her family home Balmoral Castle in rural Scotland and is expected to comment later on Friday.
She is "kept abreast of information... from her team of advisers in London and Edinburgh," the spokesperson said.
The 'nay' sayers: Pro-union supporters celebrate in Glasgow as polling results are announced. (AFP Photo)
British prime minister Cameron had promised greater powers for Scotland's parliament in a last-minute bid to convince voters to stay in the union, prompting politicians in his Conservative party to call for the same treatment for England.
'Ripped out of the UK'
Many people in the rest of the United Kingdom were concerned about the prospect of Scottish independence, which would sever a deep bond and cut the UK's surface area by a third.
A lot of the debate was focussed on the economy, what currency an independent Scotland would use and whether it could be a member of the European Union.
Scotland's parliament, opened in 1999, holds some powers devolved from Westminster to set policy in certain areas of domestic policy, such as health and education.For many voters, this was not enough.
"I voted 'Yes' because I decided Scotland should be governed by itself," said university administrator Sarah Rowell, 36, in Edinburgh.
A pro-independence observer watches as ballot cards are counted at the Royal Highland Centre counting hall in Edinburgh after ballot counting got underway in the referendum on Scottish independence. (AFP Photo)