Nervy wait for Scots as early results trickle in
19 September 2014, 08:18
Aberdeen - In counting centres, jam-packed pubs and living rooms across Scotland, voters were nervously waiting early on Friday for the results of their historic vote on whether or not to leave the United Kingdom.
Be it in the bars surrounding the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, counting halls in the major conurbations, or homes from the remote Shetland Islands down to Gretna Green on the English border, Scots were up all night on tenterhooks as early results began trickling in.
In the Aberdeen hall where votes from the rural county surrounding Scotland's oil city were being totted up, officials swung straight into action the second the polls closed at 22:00 (2100 GMT) on Thursday.
Boxes of postal votes were tipped out onto the tables and officials in white t-shirts got to work unfolding and stacking them.
Eager observers from the pro- and anti-independence "Yes" and "No" camps buzzed around, straining for a glimpse of the pencilled X marks and a rough indication of how the vote might have gone.
Tubs brimming with sweets kept the 300 counting officials going as they drummed their fingers waiting for the next batch of ballot papers being driven in from the farming villages and fishing towns.
Losing sleep, feeling sick
The Aberdeenshire count is the sixth-biggest of the 32 across Scotland, accounting for 4.8% of the national electorate.
First Minister Alex Salmond's vote was one of those to be counted, in among the ballot boxes from the pro-independence leader's rural home village of Strichen.
"This is the biggest decision I have ever been involved in. Literally the destiny of our Scottish nation has been at stake," said Malcolm Bruce, deputy leader of the "No"-supporting Liberal Democrats, who has represented the local Gordon constituency in the British parliament since 1983.
"To say you're not nervous or apprehensive, when you have a very definite view of what the right outcome is, would be to mislead. It has been nerve-racking and stressful," he told AFP.
"Until you get somewhere close to the end, however it looks, you have to wait until you're sure," he said, adding on the prospect of independence: "I have met so many people who are losing sleep, feeling sick at what they might wake up to this morning."
Booze and bagpipes
While he paced the hall in Aberdeen with a coffee, in Edinburgh voters turned to beer and the bagpipes to keep them up all night.
Around 200 independence supporters gathered outside the devolved parliament, waving Scottish flags and chanting "We're voting 'Yes'," as a piper revved up the atmosphere.
The mood was electric in the Kilderkin pub, right by the parliament, where a band belted out "The Final Countdown".
Most customers piling in were pro-independence.
"We are more passionate. We are more enthusiastic," said 17-year-old "Yes" supporter Cailib Wall, his cheeks painted in the blue and white of the Scottish flag.
"We are going to stay out till the result," added his friend Dylan McDonald, also 17.
To stop the excitement spilling over, pubs open through the night put a 03:00 (0200 GMT) limit on serving alcohol, while police officers were on patrol to ensure order.
Meanwhile at the national count centre outside the capital, where the 32 tallies around Scotland were being compiled, international media from China to Spain had gathered to hear the official results announced.
"Yes" and "No" supporters milled around trying not to talk to one another, while a giant delivery of sandwiches kept those counting the Edinburgh ballot papers going.
Meanwhile back in Aberdeen, Robert Smith, another local Liberal Democrat MP, was trying to keep calm.
"It's a time of relief that you've done everything you can and it's now in the hands of the electorate," he told AFP.
Also read: Scots still agonising over independence vote
"People have maybe got over-zealous in pursuing the campaign," he added.
"It will be crucial to have a period of healing - whatever the result."