More than 3.5 million Scots turn out for historic independence referendum

Scotland has said No to independence and preserved its 307-year-old union with England after a historic referendum which gripped voters and smashed electoral records.

From the Borders to the Highlands and Islands, almost 4 million Scots took to the polls as the nation delivered a 55 per cent to 45 per cent victory for the campaign to remain part of the United Kingdom. It might also have killed off the prospect of independence for a generation.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond conceded defeat, saying "we know it is a majority for the No campaign", and called on Scots to accept the results of the vote.

The result leaves British Prime Minister David Cameron facing mounting pressure for constitutional change within England from politicians on all sides following the promise to grant more powers to Scotland if voters rejected independence.He promised to live up to the commitments, including new powers on tax, spending and welfare.

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He said last night that the new plans would be agreed by November, with draft legislation by January.

"We will ensure that those commitments are honoured in full, " Cameron said.

On a night of high drama after more than two years of fierce and sometimes acrimonious campaigning, the nationalists led by Salmond failed to persuade enough voters that Scotland brave the risks of separation and go it alone.

Leading figures on both sides agreed that the referendum battle marked a sea change in the country's political engagement.

"I don't think politics is ever going to be the same again. Politics is going to change," said Labour's Jim Murphy, the former Scottish Secretary and leading No campaigner.

Conceding defeat, Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she had given her "heart and soul" to the campaign for independence. "I think there are very, very strong messages for the political class in Scotland and messages we need to heed."

Around 85 per cent of Scots took part in the referendum, setting new records for turnout, with some areas reporting that virtually every member of the electorate had voted. But participation was lower in some of the Yes campaign's key target cities, including Glasgow where turnout was only 75 per cent.