Belfast Telegraph

Scotland independence: decision day arrives

By Katrine Bussey

Scotland's decision day has arrived, with voters north of the border going to the polls today to determine if the country should remain part of the United Kingdom or not.

More than three years after Alex Salmond's SNP secured a landslide victory at Holyrood, the long-awaited referendum on independence is finally taking place.

Live Scotland results: Referendum counts from 32 councils on day of reckoning for Yes and No voters

The crucial ballot , which could see the 307 year old union between Scotland and England brought to an end, is expected to go down to the wire, with polls showing the contest is too close to call.

A YouGov survey for The Sun and The Times and a separate poll by Panelbase both found 52% of Scots will to vote to stay in the union, with 48% favouring independence, when undecided voters are excluded.

But research by Ipsos-Mori for the broadcaster STV suggested the gap could be even closer, indicating 51% of people will vote No to 49% for Yes.

After a frenetic final day of campaigning from the two rival sides yesterday, millions of voters across Scotland today go to the polls to decide the future of the United Kingdom.

The turnout is expected to be high, with 4,285,323 people registered to vote, according to the Electoral Commission.

For the first time 16 and 17-year-olds all across the country will be able to take part and have their say.

The question facing voters is a simple one: Should Scotland be an independent country?

Polling stations open at 7am and people have till 10pm to cast their ballot, with the result expected to be known by breakfast time tomorrow.

With the momentum in the final weeks of the campaign appearing to be behind the Yes campaign, the leaders of the three main Westminster parties have all pledged to give Scotland more powers if the outcome is No.

But nationalists dismiss this, insisting only a Yes vote will give Scotland the powers it needs.

First Minister Alex Salmond last night closed his campaign at packed rally in Perth, where he told supporters the referendum is "our opportunity of a lifetime and we must seize it with both hands".

The SNP leader declared: "This opportunity is truly historic. There are men and women all over Scotland looking in the mirror knowing that the moment has come. It's our choice and our opportunity and our time."

He stressed: "We are still the underdogs in this campaign, each and every one of us has a job to convince our fellow citizens to vote by majority for a new dawn for Scotland, for that land of prosperity but also of fairness."

Mr Salmond told how the referendum campaign had "changed Scotland forever" bringing "confidence" and "belief" to the nation, as well as an "understanding that by working together Scotland can be a global success story, a beacon of economic growth, a champion of social justice".

But US President Barack Obama made clear his support for the UK in a message on Twitter, saying: "The UK is an extraordinary partner for America and a force for good in an unstable world. I hope it remains strong, robust and united."

Former prime minister Gordon Brown - a leading figure in the No campaign who has been key in securing the fast-tracked pledge for more powers for Holyrood if the result is No - made his own passionate appeal to Scots to vote to stay in the union.

He told a Better Together rally in Glasgow yesterday that the SNP's main aim is to "break every single constitutional and political link with our neighbours and friends in the United Kingdom".

Mr Brown insisted: "We will not have this."

The Labour MP said that in the referendum "the silent majority will be silent no more".

He told how the UK had fought and won wars together, as well as establishing the National Health Service and the welfare state together.

"We will build the future together," he declared

"What we have built together, by sacrificing and sharing, let no narrow nationalism split asunder ever."

Further reading

Battle between Yes and No takes a bitter twist in final hours of campaigning

Ties that bind Northern Ireland and Scotland go way back and will survive the referendum 

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