Edinburgh: As Scotland's regions reported their decisions in a momentous independence referendum to the central counting operation in Edinburgh in the early hours of Friday morning, the "Yes" supporters' mood grew ever more deflated.
The votes piled up in favour of staying with the United Kingdom. And when it became clear that the independence campaign's dream was not to be realised, there were grim faces and tears on their side and whoops and cheers from the unionists.
"I won't be dancing tonight," said independence supporter Doug Bathgate, 58, who had worn a kilt for the occasion.
But "No" activist Phil Wheeler, an Edinburgh Liberal Democrat, said he was delighted with the outcome.
"I'd like to think (nationalist leader) Alex Salmond is hiding in his bunker. Hopefully we can get on now with a timetable for a federal UK with Scotland as the leader," he said.
As politicians spoke of the need for national reconciliation, defeated independence supporters said the struggle would go on.
Both sides said they would do their best to make sure that the British political parties in Westminster made good on their promises to give Scotland more autonomy.
"I'm annoyed," said 16-year-old high school student Alexandra McKintosh, tears in her eyes. "Westminster doesn't care about Scotland as much as it does about England. I donâ€™t trust them."
Mike Crockart, an Edinburgh Liberal Democrat member of the Westminster parliament, said: "We must deliver what the people have asked for a stronger Scotland within the UK - and we shall start today."
Asked if he thought similar demands for more powers for English regions would muddy the waters, he said. "That should not stand in the way of the Scottish people getting what they asked for.â€
The "No" vote opposing independence led from the start, with little Clackmannanshire reporting first at about 2 a.m.
A big official screen was set up in the counting hall in the Royal Highland Centre on the capital's outskirts, but the decisions were beamed live direct from the regions on national television.
A moment of hope for the independence camp came when the city of Dundee voted in favour, drawing the sides neck-and-neck, but it was short-lived.
Though Scotland's largest city, Glasgow, voted "Yes", a relatively low 75 percent turnout dented expectations of a big boost for the independence tally.
"Iâ€™ve had better nights. But thatâ€™s democracy in action. It wasnâ€™t to be," said Bathgate, a submarine pilot in the oil industry. "We still have our parliament, and we will have to pick what crumbs we can from the parties down south. The demand for independence wonâ€™t go away. Weâ€™ll have to regroup."
A beaming Sheila Gilmore, Labour MP for Edinburgh East, said she was overwhelmed by the decision to stay in the United Kingdom.
"The people listened, they thought about it, and now they have spoken. Now we can get on with practical issues â€“ health, education, social care. We have to find solutions."
Asked if she thought the British political parties would deliver on their promises to give more powers to Scotland, she said. "It is up to us Scots MPs to make sure that happens."
WE NEED ANSWERS
Independence supporter Amie Robertson, a 20-year-old student, was in a state of high emotion, tears welling in her eyes.
"Iâ€™m extremely disappointed. I donâ€™t know what to tell the people in our country who are living in poverty. Weâ€™re fed up with illegal wars. What went wrong? I canâ€™t answer that. But people want change, they are demanding change. We will keep mobilising people on the ground.â€
Robertson, a member of the Radical Independence Campaign, said she was upset because Scotland was divided by class and social inequality. "We need answers," she said.
Calum Martin, a 21-year-old history student at Edinburgh University and wearing a Scottish Socialist Party badge, said the result was disappointing but it set the stage for the independence movement to go forward.
"As long as there are flaws, there will be calls for independence. You canâ€™t put the genie back in the bottle once itâ€™s out,â€ he said.
"Weâ€™ve run a fabulous campaign â€“ support for independence has never been so high, and itâ€™s not going to go away. Westminster must deliver on its promises. Weâ€™ve shown there is a huge appetite for change.â€
Some independence supporters had wrapped themselves in Scotlandâ€™s blue and white Saltire flag or had painted the colours on their face. Ian Duncan, Conservative member of the European Parliament for Scotland, wore a suit and a satisfied smile.
"This is a victory for the union, for the United Kingdom. And we are very clear the status quo will not be what it was. We need to work for the people and make sure Scotland gets what it needs within the United Kingdom," he said.
Asked if he had worried in the past few weeks as polls showed the independence campaign gathering steam, Duncan said: "It seemed to be on a knife edge and that sharpened peopleâ€™s minds. There was a swell of people behind the campaign to keep the union together. Now we need to find ways to bring all Scotlandâ€™s people together."
(Reporting by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Will Waterman)
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Updated Date: Sep 19, 2014 13:46:13 IST