POLLING in Scotland’s independence referendum has closed, leaving campaigners and onlookers across the world waiting to learn if the country will remain in the United Kingdom or not.
A Yes vote in the historic ballot would see the 307-year-old union between Scotland and the rest of the UK brought to an end.
After a some two-and-a-half years of campaigning, people across Scotland have finally had their say.
The result is expected to go down to the wire, with polls in the last two weeks of the campaign suggesting the result is too close to call.
Voting opened at 7am and ended at 10pm, with the turnout expected to be one of the highest on record.
A total of 4,283,392 people were registered to vote, with 16 and 17-year-olds across the country permitted to take part in the vote for the first time.
As soon as Scotland’s 2,608 polling places closed, work began to transport hundreds of ballot boxes to counting centres in each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.
The number of ballot papers in each box will be counted by a 5,767-strong counting team and the total will be reported to the chief counting officer (CCO) who will authorise the local counting officer to announce the turnout.
The papers will be sorted into Yes, No and those deemed ‘’doubtful’’. These will need to be judged and possibly rejected as spoiled.
• The Scotsman will be running a live blog to cover the referendum on Scottish independence, with news, pictures, tweets and much more from around Scotland and further afield as the country goes to the polls.
The results will be declared in each individual council area, and when all the totals are in, chief counting officer Mary Pitcaithly will announce what the nation has decided at the central count centre at Royal Highland Centre outside Edinburgh.
That result is expected to be known by breakfast-time tomorrow, leaving activists on both sides of the campaign anxiously waiting on the result.
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond was joined by two first-time voters, 18-year-old Natasha McDonald and Lea Pirie, 28, at Ritchie Hall, Strichen, in his Aberdeenshire constituency, this morning.
Mr Salmond gave both women a soft Yes toy as a mascot for their vote and the trio stopped for pictures on their way into the polling station.
“Obviously there’s a great deal of anticipation, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.
“It’s a day that everybody will remember.”
Better Together leader Alistair Darling was greeted by a mixture of cheers and boos as he arrived at the Church Hill Theatre in Edinburgh to cast his vote, but said he was “very confident” the result will be a No vote
“It’s been a long, hard two-and-a-half-year campaign, passions have been aroused on both sides, and understandably so because we are talking about the biggest single decision that any of us will ever take in our lifetime.
“But I’m increasingly confident that we will win tonight.”
He added: “This is the biggest decision that any of us in Scotland will ever take. The future of our country is at stake. There is no going back.”
After casting her vote, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “I’ve just voted Yes to Scotland becoming an independent country. What a wonderful feeling.”