Scotland is beginning to contemplate a new future with Britain after spurning independence in a historic referendum.
With more than two-thirds of the votes in, the final verdict should show victory for the 300-year-old union, Reuters reported Friday.
The official result is expected to be announced within hours.
The independence camp conceded it had come up short.
“Like thousands of others across the country I’ve put my heart and soul into this campaign and there is a real sense of disappointment that we’ve fallen narrowly short of securing a yes vote,” Scottish Nationalist Party deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon said.
“It looks as if it’s not quite been enough and that’s deeply disappointing,” Sturgeon told the BBC.
The nationalists won Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow, but they failed to meet expectations in a clutch of other constituencies.
The campaign for independence had galvanized this country of 5.3 million but also divided friends and families from the remote Scottish islands of the Atlantic to the tough city estates of Glasgow.
It also worried other nations facing secessionist pressures.
Breaking apart the United Kingdom has worried allies, investors and the entire British elite whose leaders rushed late in the campaign to check what opinion polls showed was a surge in support for independence.
The United States has made clear it wants the United Kingdom, it main ally in Europe, to remain together.
Seeking to tap into a cocktail of historical rivalry, opposing political tastes and a perception that London has mismanaged Scotland, nationalists say Scots, not London, should rule Scotland to build a wealthier and fairer country.
Unionists had warned independence would usher in financial, economic and political uncertainty and diminish the UK’s standing in the world. They have warned that Scotland would not keep the pound as part of a formal currency union.
Scots were asked to answer “Yes” or “No” to the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”.
Voters lined up at polling stations across Scotland to vote with 4.28 million voters, or 97 percent of the electorate, registered to vote. Turnout hit a record high.
“It seems to me that we are going to have a ‘No’ majority in this referendum,” Danny Alexander, the Scottish-born Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told Reuters.
“That’s great news for Scotland and for the United Kingdom, but also just a start to the serious task to make sure that Scotland gets the additional power that it needs,” said Alexander, a Liberal Democrat with a Scottish constituency.
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