Katy Hunter had waited all her life for the chance to vote for an independent Scotland, and she wasn’t going to waste another moment.
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The first rays of dawn were just breaking over Edinburgh’s historic skyline, but already people had gathered to make their decision. At stake the fate of the nation, 300 years of union potentially just hours from ending.
It was shortly before 7am in central Edinburgh, and polling stations were about to open. Katy was among the first to cast her vote at Lothian Chambers on the city’s Royal Mile.
“I’ve wanted an independent Scotland my whole life,” she said.
“It’s not because I’m anti-English, because I’m not – I don’t think the UK works.”
Asked what difference an independent Scotland could make, she replied: “Hopefully a huge difference. “I think we can be our own people. We are politically and culturally distinct from the English.”
The first to cast their vote here was Andrew Burnett. “I want to get the most important thing of the day done first,” he said.
“I’m not normally someone who wakes up early, but today I had a sense of urgency to come and vote - It’s a big day for our country. It’s been a long time coming.”
Like so many others in recent weeks, Mr Burnett had been won over by the Yes side.
“I was going to vote no, but I changed my mind,” he added.
“It took about 18 months to convert me. There are risks on both sides, but the risks of staying as we are seem much greater.”
The weather here has taken a turn in the last 24 hours, with the iconic castle which overlooks the city shrouded in mist this afternoon.
However, the political temperatures continue to rise.
Late last night hundreds of Yes campaigners flooded central Edinburgh in one last rallying cry for separation.
Meanwhile, the already huge media presence has swelled over the past 24 hours.
Crews from as far away as Brazil, China and Japan are documenting what could be the last hours of the United Kingdom as we know it.
But there is a bigger story at play here.
A Yes vote today could have implications elsewhere. People from Catalonia – which is aiming to break away from Spain – have been spotted among the crowds.
In many parts of the world, people are looking to Scotland and the outcome of today’s vote.
However, it is here in Edinburgh, and other cities across this beautiful land, where the repercussions will be felt most strongly.
Recent days have seen tempers boil over as the battle for the hearts and minds of Scottish voters has intensified.
Lisa Clark, who cast her vote early this morning, said it was understandable.
“The emotion is only natural – this is an incredibly important vote,” she said.
Charlotte Abbott voted no. For her the risks of separation are simply too great.
“I’m hoping there will still be a positive outcome, that we might get greater devolution and more powers devolved here,” she said.
An intense debate has grown increasingly bitter in recent days, tearing open a wound between the pro and anti-independence lobbies which must heal.
One no voter, though, believes the campaign has been good for Scottish politics.
“I was always a no voter – I think we are better together,” he said.
“However, I think people have been re-energised by the debate. Hopefully the people who voted yes will get on with it and we can have a better future – together.”
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