EDINBURGH (AFP) – Scotland voted Thursday in an independence referendum that could break up the centuries-old United Kingdom and create Europe’s newest state since the collapse of Yugoslavia.
Some 97 per cent of eligible Scots – nearly 4.3 million people – have registered to vote, underscoring the passions that the historic decision has ignited across the nation.
In queues snaking outside polling stations, voters spoke emotionally about the momentous choice they were faced with.
“It’s an important day. This is a decision which lasts forever, which will impact my children,” said Charlotte Farish, 34, who turned out early in Edinburgh with her two children before taking them to school and heading into work.
In Glasgow, 23-year-old Aidan Ford said: “I felt different today than in most of the previous votes. I might be making a difference and my vote counts.”
After months when it looked like the independence camp could not win, a surge in support in the final two weeks has left pollsters warning the outcome is too close to call.
One of Scotland’s most famous sportsmen, tennis star Andy Murray, appeared to lend his support to separation in a last-minute tweet accusing the “No” campaign of negativity.
“Let’s do this!” wrote Murray, who no longer lives in Scotland, echoing a slogan raised by pro-independence First Minister Alex Salmond in a final fiery campaign speech.
British newspapers quickly made the statement a top story and 12,000 people re-tweeted the message, including Salmond.
“We can take our future into our own hands,” Salmond told AFP after voting in the village of Strichen in a farming region in northeast Scotland where he is the local lawmaker.
“We’ve got the chance to build a more prosperous economy but also a fairer society,” the Scottish National Party (SNP) leader said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has pleaded with Scots to vote in favour of keeping “our home” and has warned the break-up would be a “painful divorce” full of economic risks.
If Scots vote “Yes”, it would end a union dating back to 1707, could force Cameron to resign and might raise serious questions about Britain’s status on the international stage.
Financial markets have been volatile for days on uncertainty over the outcome, which is being watched closely around the world.