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Scotland Rejects Independence in Record-Breaking Referendum

The United Kingdom remained intact Friday after 55.3 percent of Scottish voters rejected independence in a record-breaking national referendum.
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The United Kingdom remained intact Friday after 55.3 percent of Scottish voters rejected independence in a record-breaking national referendum.

Scotland's largest city, Glasgow, voted in favor of independence — itself a significant milestone in British history — but that was not enough to secure an overall victory for the 'Yes' campaign.

Despite a sudden and historic surge in support for separation, the final defeat came at 6:10 a.m. local time (1:10 a.m. ET) when Fife declared its results, pushing the 'No' side over the 50 percent threshold needed for victory. More than 84 percent of registered voters turned out.

"We've taken on the argument and we've won. The silent have spoken," Alistair Darling, leader of the Better Together campaign against independence, said in a victory speech. Darling acknowledged the campaign created deep political divisions among Scots and vowed to work hard to address cries for change among backers of separation.

The final tally had 'No' with 2,001,926 votes (55.3 percent) while 'Yes' garnered 1,616,989 votes (44.7 percent).

Conceding defeat, Scotland's pro-independence leader and First Minister Alex Salmond thanked the voters who backed independence, saying they had changed the face of British politics forever.

"It is 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," he said. "I accept that verdict of the people and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland."

Image: Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond concedes defeat early Friday
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond concedes defeat early Friday.RUSSELL CHEYNE / Reuters

He also praised the record-breaking turnout, adding: "This has been a triumph for the democratic process."

Many Scots settled in to stay up all night in homes and bars to watch the results in what came close to being the U.K.'s biggest constitutional shakeup since 1707. Others across Britain had also been nervously awaiting the outcome, including Prime Minister David Cameron who earlier this week made an emotional plea to Scots to remain in the United Kingdom.

Cameron responded to the vote by reiterating that he'd offer a promised package of extra powers for Scotland's devolved government - as well as more localized government for England and Wales.

Speaking early Friday, Cameron said the "debate has been settled for a generation."

He added: "The Scottish people have spoken and it's a clear result. They have kept our country of four nations [England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland] together and like millions of other people I'm delighted. Now it's time for our United Kingdom to come together and to move forward."

Cameron said the referendum had "stirred strong passions" and would be remembered as a "powerful demonstration of the strength and vitality of our ancient democracy."

Turnout was at record levels across Scotland - as high as 91 per cent in East Dunbartonshire, according to officials at the referendum result declaration center in Ingliston, on the outskirts of Edinburgh. In the far northwestern peninsula community of Knoydart, 100 percent of the 98 registered voters went to the polls, according to reports.

Image: Pro-independence supporters in Edinburgh early Friday
Pro-independence supporters show their disappointment in Edinburgh, Scotland, early Friday.LESLEY MARTIN / AFP - Getty Images

Edinburgh, Scotland's capital city, and Stirling, in the heart of Scotland, voted 'No' - but West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire and the city of Dundee voted Yes.

The question on the ballot paper was: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.