Moray gave a resounding thumbs-down to independence on a night of high drama that saw the north east turn its back on the dreams of just under half its citizens.
The regional count in Moray was one of the last to declare with a record turn out coupled with a smaller number of election staff as usual because of the smaller venue at the Fisherman’s Hall in Buckie.
That venue took over from the Elgin Town Hall which is undergoing extensive restoration – but it is perhaps the restoration of pride in the millions who voted Yes but failed that will be a major task for the country.
It was well after 4am before Returning Officer Mark Palmer was able to reveal that 85.4% of Moray’s voters turned out in Thursday’s referendum – a total of 64,205 votes cast, many of them by 16 to 18-year-olds for the first time in UK history.
An agonising night for senior Yes campaigners, including the region’s MSP Richard Lochhead, finally ended shortly after 6am when the Moray vote was revealed. By then it had almost become a forgone conclusion as the ‘No’ tray was noticeably climbing higher than the ‘Yes’ tray.
Mark Palmer finally called a halt to proceedings at 6.16am when he revealed that Yes supporters cast 27,232 votes while those preferring to remain as part of the United Kingdom cast 36,935 – a majority of 9703, with a further 38 votes ‘spoiled’.
A stunned Sean Morton, the Fochabers/Lhanbryde councillor who was one of the leaders of the No campaign in Moray, said: “We feel that we’ve just moved a mountain, I have never been so proud in all of my life.
“Stunned – thank you everyone, now let’s change Scotland and Britain for all of us, together.”
With just one result remaining to be called the national figures show 55.42% voted No while 44.58 said Yes. The turnout around the country was a stunning 84.48% with a high number of rejected ballots – 3261. The remaining result, Highland, was delayed because an accident on the A9 put a halt to a number of ballot boxes arriving at the count.
The Moray vote called a halt to any dwindling hopes for the Yes Campaign, with First Minister Alex Salmond accepting defeat just a minute after the result was called in Buckie.
Mr Salmond said: “I accept the verdict of the people and I call on the people of Scotland to follow suit and accept the democratic decision.
“The process by which we have made this decision reflects enormous credit on Scotland. This has been a triumph of the democratic process.”
insideMoray has been reporting throughout the night from Buckie – see the path through a dramatic night on our Facebook Page.