Vote counting begins in Scotland on independence

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Vote counting begins in Scotland on independence
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: A discarded Yes sticker lies on cobble stones along the Royal Mile after the people of Scotland voted no to independence on September 19, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The majority of Scottish people have today voted 'No' in the referendum and Scotland will remain within the historic union of countries that make up the United Kingdom. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A pro-independence supporter is pictured in George Square in Glasgow, Scotland, on September 19, 2014, following a defeat in the referendum on Scottish independence. Scotland rejected independence on Friday in a referendum that left the centuries-old United Kingdom intact but paved the way for a major transfer of powers away from London. AFP PHOTO / ANDY BUCHANAN (Photo credit should read Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-independence supporters are pictured in George Square in Glasgow, Scotland, on September 19, 2014, following a defeat in the referendum on Scottish independence. Scotland rejected independence on Friday in a referendum that left the centuries-old United Kingdom intact but paved the way for a major transfer of powers away from London. AFP PHOTO / ANDY BUCHANAN (Photo credit should read Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-independence supporters console each other in George Square in Glasgow, Scotland, on September 19, 2014, following a defeat in the referendum on Scottish independence. Scotland rejected independence on Friday in a referendum that left the centuries-old United Kingdom intact but paved the way for a major transfer of powers away from London. AFP PHOTO / ANDY BUCHANAN (Photo credit should read Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)
Pro-independence supporters push each other in a shopping trolley in Glasgow, Scotland, on September 19, 2014, following a defeat in the referendum on Scottish independence. Scotland rejected independence on Friday in a referendum that left the centuries-old United Kingdom intact but paved the way for a major transfer of powers away from London. AFP PHOTO / ANDY BUCHANAN (Photo credit should read Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: Leader of the UK Independence Party, UKIP Nigel Farage gives interviews on Abingdon Green on September 19, 2014 in London, England. The majority of Scottish people have today voted 'No' in the referendum and Scotland will remain within the historic union of countries that make up the United Kingdom. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: 'Better Together' supporters celebrate the result of the Scottish referendum on independence at the count centre for the Scottish referendum at Ingleston Hall on September 19, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The majority of Scottish people have today voted “No” in the referendum and Scotland will remain within the historic union of countries that make up the United Kingdom. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19: Leader of the UK Independence Party, UKIP Nigel Farage posts letters to Scottish MP's urging them not to vote on English laws on September 19, 2014 in London, England. The majority of Scottish people have today voted 'No' in the referendum and Scotland will remain within the historic union of countries that make up the United Kingdom. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
British Labour Party MP and pro-union supporter Alistair Darling addresses supporters during a 'Better Together' referendum event in Glasgow, Scotland, on September 19, 2014. Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond on Friday conceded defeat in his party's campaign for independence from the rest of the United Kingdom, after all but one result from the historic referendum was declared. AFP PHOTO / ANDY BUCHANAN (Photo credit should read Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)
British Prime Minister David Cameron addresses the media outside 10 Downing Street in London, on September 19, 2014, following results in the Scottish referendum on independence. Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond on Friday conceded defeat in his party's campaign for independence from the rest of the United Kingdom, after all but one result from the historic referendum was declared. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond poses for photographs after casting his ballot at Ritchie Hall in Strichen, Scotland, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Polls opened across Scotland in a referendum that will decide whether the country leaves its 307-year-old union with England and becomes an independent state. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
Yes campaign and No campaign posters stand outside a polling place in Edinburgh, Scotland, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Polls have opened across Scotland in a referendum that will decide whether the country leaves its 307-year-old union with England and becomes an independent state. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
The young son of a Yes campaigner takes a picture of a sign outside a polling place in Edinburgh, Scotland, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Polls have opened across Scotland in a referendum that will decide whether the country leaves its 307-year-old union with England and becomes an independent state. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A young voter leaves after casting his ballot at Ritchie Hall in Strichen, Scotland, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Polls opened across Scotland in a referendum that will decide whether the country leaves its 307-year-old union with England and becomes an independent state. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, file photo, a "No" campaign supporter and a "Yes" campaign supporter chat holding posters after a No campaign event where a number of speeches were made by different people and politicians in Glasgow, Scotland. Breaking up is hard to do, especially after 300 years. The people of the United Kingdom will find out just how hard if Scotland votes for independence on Thursday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and figurehead of the Yes campaign for the Scottish independence referendum delivers a speech to Yes campaign supporters at the concert hall, in Perth, Scotland, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Excitement and anxiety mounted across the country Wednesday, the final day of campaigning before Thursday's referendum on independence. With opinion polls suggesting the result is too close to call and turnout expected to reach record levels, supporters of separation feel they are within touching distance of victory — but wonder whether their surge in the polls will be enough. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
People react during a pro Scottish independence campaign rally, in central Glasgow, Scotland,Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. The two sides in Scotland's independence debate are scrambling to convert undecided voters, with just one day to go until a referendum on separation. (AP Photo/David Cheskin)
DALMALLY, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 06: Pro-Scottish independence 'Yes Scotland' campaign stall at the Dalmally Agricultural Society Show on September 6, 2014 in Dalmally, Scotland. The Dalmally show is an annual event in which prizes are given to best livestock, best-grown vegetables, for cooking and home industries arts. Exhibitions, festivities and demonstrations also take place at this major Scottish agricultural show. Scotland will vote on whether or not to Leave the United Kingdom in a referendum to be held on September 18th this year. (Photo by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 04: Political viewpoints decorate the exterior of premises- one reads 'Vote No' in favour of the Union, the other is a 'Yes' sign for a 'Yes Scotland' pro-independence office, showing opposing sides of the argument for the forthcoming Scottish independence referendum, on September 4, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. Scotland will vote on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom in a referendum to be held on September 18th this year. (Photo by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 04: Jim Murphy MP, former Secretary of State for Scotland, speaks from the soapbox in support of the Union as he continues his '100 towns in 100 days' tour outside the Gallery of Modern Art, on September 4, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. Mr Murphy resumed his tour this week after having to suspend it last week following disruption and attempts to silence him by supporters of the pro-Independence vote. Scotland will vote on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom in a referendum to be held on September 18th this year. (Photo by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 04: Jim Murphy MP, former Secretary of State for Scotland, speaks from the soapbox in support of the Union as he continues his '100 towns in 100 days' tour outside the Gallery of Modern Art, on September 4, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. Mr Murphy resumed his tour this week after having to suspend it last week following disruption and attempts to silence him by supporters of the pro-Independence vote. Scotland will vote on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom in a referendum to be held on September 18th this year. (Photo by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 04: Jim Murphy MP, former Secretary of State for Scotland, arrives carrying his soapboxes as he continues his '100 towns in 100 days' tour outside the Gallery of Modern Art, on September 4, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. Mr Murphy resumed his tour this week after having to suspend it last week following disruption and attempts to silence him by supporters of the pro-Independence vote. Scotland will vote on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom in a referendum to be held on September 18th this year. (Photo by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 04: Pro-Union supporters listen to Jim Murphy MP, former Secretary of State for Scotland, as speaks in defence of the Union during his '100 towns in 100 days' tour, outside the Gallery of Modern Art, on September 4, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. Mr Murphy resumed his tour this week after having to suspend it last week following disruption and attempts to silence him by supporters of the pro-Independence vote. Scotland will vote on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom in a referendum to be held on September 18th this year. (Photo by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images)
BLANTYRE, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 04: Labour Leader Ed Miliband joins the Scottish Labour Party's independence campaign trail on September 4, 2014 in Blantyre, Scotland. Miliband urged Scots to reject independence in a referendum on the September 18, promising he will win a national election next year and give them the changes they desire. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 29: Better Together leader Alistair Darling joins the Deputy leader of the Scottish Labour party Anas Sarwar during a visit to Glasgow Central Mosque on August 29, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. Mr. Darling and Mr. Sarwar were making the case for keeping the Scotland in the Union ahead of the referendum vote on independence on September 18th. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
DUNDEE, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 27: Yes and Better Together supporters exchange views with one another as Jim Murphy Shadow Secretary of State for International Development (not seen), speaks on his soapbox during his '100 Towns in 100 Days' tour on August 27, 2014 in Dundee, Scotland. Mr. Murphy, Labour MP, is touring Scotland on behalf of the Better Together, spreading his message about the benefits of Scotland remaining part of the union and informing the public of the risks that independence poses for the country. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
DUNDEE, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 27: Yes and Better Together supporters exchange views with one another as Jim Murphy Shadow Secretary of State for International Development (not seen), speaks on his soapbox during his '100 Towns in 100 Days' tour on August 27, 2014 in Dundee, Scotland. Mr. Murphy, Labour MP, is touring Scotland on behalf of the Better Together, spreading his message about the benefits of Scotland remaining part of the union and informing the public of the risks that independence poses for the country. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
DUNDEE, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 27: Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown attends a Better Together rally on August 27, 2014 in Dundee, Scotland. Both encouraged Scots with postal votes to vote no to independence, as postal ballots are being sent out this week to voters across Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
FENWICK, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 26: Yes campaign placards are placed in a field on August 26, 2014 in Fenwick, Scotland. In less than a month voters will go to the polls to vote yes or no on whether Scotland should become an independent country. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond poses for photographs after casting his ballot at Ritchie Hall in Strichen, Scotland, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Polls opened across Scotland in a referendum that will decide whether the country leaves its 307-year-old union with England and becomes an independent state. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
Children too young to vote play with a Yes campaigner, right, using Yes campaign big hands outside a polling place in Edinburgh, Scotland, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Polls opened across Scotland in a referendum that will decide whether the country leaves its 307-year-old union with England and becomes an independent state. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Yes campaigners stand outside a polling place in Edinburgh, Scotland, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Polls have opened across Scotland in a referendum that will decide whether the country leaves its 307-year-old union with England and becomes an independent state. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A Yes campaigner and a No campaigner stand outside a polling place in Edinburgh, Scotland, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Polls have opened across Scotland in a referendum that will decide whether the country leaves its 307-year-old union with England and becomes an independent state. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Voters leave after casting their ballots at Ritchie Hall in Strichen, Scotland, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Polls opened across Scotland in a referendum that will decide whether the country leaves its 307-year-old union with England and becomes an independent state. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
Flemish nationalists and others in support of Scottish independence stand in front of a 'Yes' banner in Brussels on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Scots held the fate of the United Kingdom in their hands Thursday as they voted in a referendum on becoming an independent state, deciding whether to unravel a marriage with England that built an empire but has increasingly been felt by many Scots as stifling and one-sided.(AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond meets members of the public on a walkabout in Newmachar, Scotland, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Polls opened across Scotland in a referendum that will decide whether the country leaves its 307-year-old union with England and becomes an independent state. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
A man repairs part of a makeshift Scottish national flag before a demonstration in favor of Scottish independence in Brussels on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Scots held the fate of the United Kingdom in their hands Thursday as they voted in a referendum on becoming an independent state, deciding whether to unravel a marriage with England that built an empire but has increasingly been felt by many Scots as stifling and one-sided. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Flemish nationalists and other supporters carry flags as they take part in a demonstration in favor of Scottish independence in Brussels on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Scots held the fate of the United Kingdom in their hands Thursday as they voted in a referendum on becoming an independent state, deciding whether to unravel a marriage with England that built an empire but has increasingly been felt by many Scots as stifling and one-sided.(AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
Scottish independence referendum Yes supporter 83-year-old Edinburgh resident Isabelle Smith, who lived in the U.S. for three decades, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press outside a polling place in Edinburgh, Scotland, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Polls have opened across Scotland in a referendum that will decide whether the country leaves its 307-year-old union with England and becomes an independent state. For Smith, who went to the polling station decked out in a blue-and-white pro-independence shirt and rosette, statehood for Scotland was a dream nurtured during her time living in the United States with her late husband. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
A school boy arrives at a polling station to vote in the Scottish Referendum in Peebles, Scotland,Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Scotland votes on independence. Polls opened across Scotland in a referendum that will decide whether the country leaves its 307-year-old union with England and becomes an independent state. Sixteen and seventeen-year-olds can vote in the referendum. (AP Photo/David Cheskin)
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond, centre left, talks to the media after casting his ballot at Ritchie Hall in Strichen, Scotland, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Polls opened across Scotland in a referendum that will decide whether the country leaves its 307-year-old union with England and becomes an independent state. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
People react during a pro Scottish independence campaign rally, in central Glasgow, Scotland,Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. The two sides in Scotland's independence debate are scrambling to convert undecided voters, with just one day to go until a referendum on separation. (AP Photo/David Cheskin)
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and figurehead of the Yes campaign for the Scottish independence referendum smiles at the start of his speech to Yes campaign supporters at the concert hall, in Perth, Scotland, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Excitement and anxiety mounted across the country Wednesday, the final day of campaigning before Thursday's referendum on independence. With opinion polls suggesting the result is too close to call and turnout expected to reach record levels, supporters of separation feel they are within touching distance of victory — but wonder whether their surge in the polls will be enough. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Former British Finance Minister and No campaigner for the Scottish independence referendum Alistair Darling gestures at the end of his speech at a No campaign event in Glasgow, Scotland, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Will the ayes have it, or will Scotland say naw thanks? No one is certain. Excitement and anxiety mounted across the country Wednesday, the final day of campaigning before Thursday's referendum on independence. With opinion polls suggesting the result is too close to call and turnout expected to reach record levels, supporters of separation feel they are within touching distance of victory — but wonder whether their surge in the polls will be enough. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
The audience applaud and hold No campaign posters during a No campaign event where a number of speeches were made by different people and politicians in Glasgow, Scotland, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014. Will the ayes have it, or will Scotland say naw thanks? No one is certain. Excitement and anxiety mounted across the country Wednesday, the final day of campaigning before Thursday's referendum on independence. With opinion polls suggesting the result is too close to call and turnout expected to reach record levels, supporters of separation feel they are within touching distance of victory — but wonder whether their surge in the polls will be enough. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
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EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) -- Excitement vied with apprehension as Scottish voters went to the polls Thursday in a referendum on independence, deciding whether to dissolve a 307-year union with England that brought prosperity but has increasingly felt stifling to many Scots.

As the polls closed and the vote counting began, there was a quiet thrill of history in the making on the fog-shrouded streets of Scotland's capital, Edinburgh. Many Scots were staying up all night in homes and bars to watch the results roll in.

Eager voters had lined up outside some polling stations even before they opened at 7 a.m. Many polling stations were busy and turnout was expected to be high. More than 4.2 million people had registered to vote - 97 percent of those eligible - including residents as young as 16.

A Yes vote would trigger 18 months of negotiations between Scottish leaders and London-based politicians on how the two countries would separate their institutions before Scotland's planned Independence Day on March 24, 2016.

For some, it was a day they had dreamed of for decades. For others, the time had finally come to make up their minds about the future - both for themselves and for the United Kingdom.

"Fifty years I fought for this," said 83-year-old Isabelle Smith, a Yes supporter in Edinburgh's maritime district of Newhaven, a former fishing port. "And we are going to win. I can feel it in my bones."

For Smith, who went to the polling station decked out in a blue-and-white pro-independence shirt and rosette, statehood for Scotland was a dream nurtured during three decades living in the U.S. with her late husband.

"The one thing America has that the Scots don't have is confidence," said Smith, who returned to Scotland years ago. "But they're getting it, they're walking tall."

"No matter what, Scotland will never, ever be the same again."

The question on the ballot paper could not be simpler: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Yet it has divided Scots during months of campaigning, generating an unprecedented volume and intensity of public debate and participation. The Yes side, in particular, has energized young people and previously disillusioned working-class voters.

Polls suggest the result was too close to call. A final Ipsos MORI poll released Thursday put support for the No side at 53 percent and Yes at 47 percent. The phone survey of 991 people has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Until recently, polls suggested as many as 1 in 5 voters was undecided, but that number has shrunk dramatically. In the latest poll, only 4 percent remained uncertain how they would vote.

Many questions - the currency independent Scotland would use, its status within the European Union and NATO, the fate of Britain's nuclear-armed submarines, based at a Scottish port - remain uncertain or disputed after months of campaigning.

After weeks in which British media have talked of little else, the television airwaves were almost a referendum-free zone Thursday. Electoral rules forbid discussion and analysis of elections on television while the polls are open.

On the streets, it was a different story, with rival Yes and No billboards and campaigners outside many polling places.

At an Edinburgh polling station, Thomas Roberts said he had voted Yes because he felt optimistic about Scotland's future as an independent country.

"Why not roll the dice for once?" he asked.

Once the polls closed, ballot boxes were to be transported to 32 regional centers for counting. The result was expected Friday morning.

Roberts said he was looking forward to learning the outcome in a pub, many of which were staying open overnight.

"I'm going to sit with a beer in my hand watching the results coming in," Roberts said.

Many who oppose independence agreed that the campaign had reinvigorated Scottish democracy.

"I support the No side, but it's been a fascinating, worthwhile discussion about Scotland's future," said David Clarke, a writing consultant.

"If it's a No, it's a win-win situation. If it's a Yes, we will have to deal with the fact that it's a Yes."

But other No supporters said the noisy pro-independence campaign had divided the country and fueled bad feeling among neighbors.

"The country is divided with a hatchet. It's so awful - and it was completely unnecessary," said Fiona Mitchell, distributing No leaflets outside a polling station.

First Minister Alex Salmond, leader of the independence campaign, cast his vote near his home in northeastern Scotland. If the Yes side prevails, he will have realized a long-held dream of leading his country to independence from an alliance with England formed in 1707.

In a final speech on Wednesday night, Salmond told voters: "This is our opportunity of a lifetime and we must seize it with both hands."

Pro-independence forces got a last-minute boost from tennis star Andy Murray, who signaled his support of the Yes campaign in a tweet to his 2.7 million followers early Thursday.

Anti-independence leaders, including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, have implored Scots not to break their links with the rest of the United Kingdom, and have stressed the economic uncertainties independence would bring.

Many Yes supporters planned to stay up late in bars, or to gather in symbolic spots like Calton Hill, overlooking Edinburgh - hoping the sun will rise Friday on a new dawn and not a hangover.

But financial consultant Michael MacPhee, a No voter, said he would observe the returns coming in "with anxiety."

Scottish independence was "the daftest idea I've ever heard," he said.

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