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  • The pro-UK “No” vote has a slight lead in opinion polling going into the vote, per Ipsos Mori: No 53; Yes 47.
  • Fife is looking like the key constituency that will sway the whole thing.
  • PM David Cameron will address the nation Friday morning.
  • Allegations on both sides that activists are using vandalism and intimidation to quell votes.
  • Polls are open and a turnout of nearly 4.3 million is expected, more than 90%.
  • The BBC is censoring its coverage of the vote until 10 pm.
  • Official result expected by about 6 a.m. Friday (1 a.m. ET).
  • Scottish pubs will be open all night.

POLLS ARE OPEN: Scotland is voting right now on whether to end its 307-year union with the United Kingdom and go it alone as an independent country.

  • We’re covering this live all day and — as the votes are counted — all night, so check back, click here, or refresh this page for updates.

HOW A SHOCK ‘YES’ VOTE COULD EMERGE AT THE LAST MINUTE: People are quickly waking up to the fact that this vote, unlike any other, has a close to 100% turnout — and thus opinion pollsters are unlikely to be using sample sets that accurately reflect the kind of voter who otherwise doesn’t vote. Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal has the money quote: “I have no idea how the average 17 yr old is going to vote, but I know the average Celtic supporting Gorbels [sic] resident is going to vote Yes.”

Marie RimmerTWO ARRESTS FOR ALLEGED VIOLENCE AT POLLING STATIONS IN SCOTLAND: Now we’ve got a bit more detail on the 44-year-old pro-Yes man arrested at a polling station in Clydebank. (And by “bit,” we mean, really, a bit.) In addition — the SNP will love this — a pro-No activist was also arrested at a polling station in Glasgow. The Liverpool Echo has the story:

Marie Rimmer, who has been on St Helens council for more than three decades, was held after, the ECHO understands, a woman was kicked at a community centre in the Shettleston area of Glasgow around lunchtime as Scots turned out to cast their vote in the landmark referendum.

Rimmer, 67, will likely be a candidate for the St Helens South and Whiston parliamentary seat. Knowing St Helens as I do, the allegation that she put the boot in will probably help her campaign to be an MP.

THE POUND SURGES AGAINST THE EURO AND THE DOLLAR: Currency traders appear to have already decided that Scotland will vote No to independence. A Yes vote would denote economic chaos and uncertainty regarding the currency, leading to a selloff and a decline in the pound. The opposite — people buying the pound because they think it’s going to get stronger — suggests investors believe the No vote will win tonight.

TURNOUT IS MASSIVE, AND IT MAY WORK IN FAVOR OF THE YES VOTE: The polls say the No vote has it. But the Yes campaign has believed all along that if it can get a huge turnout — including the very poor who rarely vote, and thousands of new 16-18-year-old voters — then it will receive an unexpected bump at the ballot box that the opinion polls haven’t picked up. The Guardian goes into this here. And guess what? Turnout is indeed as close to 100% as an election is ever going to see. It’s 92% in Shetland, for instance. So if the “Yes voter opinion poll conspiracy theory” is to come true, then it will come true today …

David CameronDAVID CAMERON WILL ADDRESS THE NATION ON FRIDAY MORNING: No matter what the result, the prime minister will say something that attempts to sew Britain back together, The Guardian says. And it’s not just our broken hearts he’ll have to mend, it’s support on his own backbenches. MP Nick Herbert says his Scotland strategy was all wrong. Cameron yesterday insisted he won’t resign if Scotland votes Yes.

WHAT ABOUT NORTH LANARKSHIRE? Business Insider’s Joe Weisenthal argues that the area to the right of Glasgow on the map is the bellwether — and its result will come really early in the night, about 2 am.

AN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND COULD USE BITCOIN: Well, it could, in theory, possibly, hypothetically, suggests Quartz: “That idea may seem far-fetched, but it has been posited in at least one high-profile financial forum by the assistant governor of Australia’s central bank and in a publication by a British think tank.”

FIFE SCOTLANDFIFE IS KEY: It’s the only large constituency where the Guardian cannot predict an outcome, and its result is expected at about 4 am, a long time before the final call. The Belfast Telegraph has a longer take, arguing that even if North and South Lanarkshire go for “Yes,” that won’t be enough if Fife leans for “No”:

Fife has a hefty 7% of the total Scottish electorate. Indications are it’s hard to call between Yes and No. If it’s close by this stage, No would probably need to win here. Highland is also a large declaration at this time and should go for No, and North Ayrshire should follow soon after. Similar to Fife and No needing to win there if its close, Yes would want/need to win North Ayrshire if it’s close at this stage.

*At this stage ie around 4am Yes would need to be ahead if it is to win.

It will be all about Fife tonight! (There’s more Fife news further down.)

VOTER TURNOUT IS GOING TO BE ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE: Channel 4 News chief correspondent Alex Thomson says 90% of absentee ballots have already been returned in Edinburgh. Here is some more detail from The Scotsman. This poll worker from Kelty says that with six hours of voting still left to go, she has already seen a 40% turnout. Some people are saying turnout could be as high as a staggering 97%. We’ll see.

scotlandTHE UGLY SIDE OF THE REFERENDUM: The Huffington Post UK has a great summary of all the nasty tactics and venom we’ve seen in the runup to the vote. Nationalists think this is all anti-”Yes” media bias, of course. But it’s weird that reporters from so many different media organizations can only seem to find examples of SNP intimidation. It’s either a vast media conspiracy … or it’s true.

WHY THE BBC IS IGNORING THE SCOTTISH VOTE: Don’t bother watching the TV today, says Business Insider’s Mike Bird. The BBC and Sky News won’t be covering the referendum. (They’re talking about sports and the weather instead.) That’s because UK broadcasters are hemmed in by arcane laws to prevent them from affecting the outcome of the vote.

PHOTOS OF ‘YES’ CAMPAIGNERS BREACHING POLLING STATION REGULATIONS: Not a huge deal, but not exactly helping to dispel the myth that the “Yes” people aren’t too bothered if the “No” folks feel intimidated when they vote. Business Insider’s Tomas Hirst has the full story.


fifeWILL THE ‘INDEPENDENT KINGDOM OF FIFE’ BE THE KEY? We noted earlier (below) that key areas to watch for as voting results are announced tonight will be North Lancashire, South Lanarkshire, and Fife, which hold 6.3%, 6.1%, and 7.1% of voters, respectively. Although it doesn’t have any of Scotland’s major cities, Fife is Scotland’s third-largest voting district and will declare around 4 am. So there’s a huge chance that once you know the vote in Fife, you’ll know the whole thing. Glasgow and Edinburgh are the biggest areas but they won’t declare until very late in the night — it might be too late if the Fife result confirms a winner. Here is the Guardian’s take:

Fife: Expected declaration time: 4am; 7.1% of the electorate

Known to its proudly independent residents as the Kingdom of Fife, this large semi-rural county north of Edinburgh has Scotland’s third-largest electorate of 302,108 voters. Once a Labour bastion – before its coal mines, naval dockyard and heavy industry faded – it is home to former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown and former UK Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell. But many Fifers vote SNP, particularly in the new town of Glenrothes and Fife’s commuter belt, which feeds Edinburgh, and its Labour vote cannot be taken for granted.

DO NOT MESS WITH THIS BAGPIPE FLAME-THROWER: Reuters found Ryan Randall playing these fire-spewing bagpipes outside a polling station in Edinburgh.

bagpipe scotland fire flamesTHERE MIGHT BE MORE OIL IN SCOTLAND THAN YOU THOUGHT: The Wall Street Journal says oil analysts are expecting a brief increase in oil supply from the North Sea fields. But it’s still downhill after 2018: “Respected oil industry analysts Wood Mackenzie have weighed in with some forecasts. The likely tale, they say, is one of a near-term uptick in output, followed by years of decline. North Sea production is likely to rise to 1.3 million barrels a day in 2018 from 1.17 million barrels a day expected this year. But after 2018 it will be a downward path, with production in 2023 likely to be 1 million b/d, a quarter of the level in 1999.”

MAN ARRESTED AT POLLING STATION: Scottish police have arrested a man at a polling station according to a tweet from The Mail’s John Stevens (below). The Telegraph confirms a 44-year-old was arrested.

Mayor of London Boris JohnsonBORIS JOHNSON WOULD LOVE IT IF SCOTLAND GOES INDEPENDENT: German paper Bild (translated via The Telegraph) notes that if the “Yes” campaign wins, it will hurt prime minister David Cameron, and London Mayor Boris Johnson is waiting in the wings to succeed him as leader of the Conservative Party. That scenario would deliver an almost permanent Conservative majority within England, Wales and N. Ireland — because Labour would lose all its Scottish seats — making Johnson a potential future prime minister. Just a thought!

HERE IS THE WORDING OF THE ACTUAL QUESTION ON THE BALLOT:Should Scotland be an independent country?” It’s a masterpiece of simplicity, the BBC notes. Just six words will decide the fate of the nation. Voters must draw a cross next to the answers “Yes” or “No.”

CATALAN INDEPENDENCE PROTESTERS ARE IN EDINBURGH URGING A ‘YES’ VOTE: Business Insider reporter Tomas Hirst spotted them outside Holyrood, playing the Catalan national anthem to anyone who would listen. They’re annoyed because Spain won’t let Catalonia vote on its own independence. Catalans are hoping a Yes vote in Scotland will trigger independence for them, somehow.

catalan scotlandLATEST POLL SHOWS ‘NO’ LEAD GETTING BIGGER: Ipsos MORI says voters are now split 53-47 in favor of the pro-UK “No” camp, the Evening Standard reports. Four percent are undecided. This new poll fits in with the narrative of the past few days, which has seen the “No” camp solidify its slight lead over those favoring independence. Of course, polls aren’t votes …

scotland daily mailTHEY’RE ALREADY ARGUING OVER WHO WILL GET SCOTLAND’S GOLD: The Wall Street Journal reports that if the country goes independent, it may lay a claim to its share of the gold in the Bank of England: “Most of the UK’s official gold sits over two floors in clay-tiled vaults of the Bank of England. It’s the second-largest gold stash in the world after the New York Federal Reserve. The Bank of England’s Old Lady of Threadneedle Street app says the vaults contain an estimated 400,000 13kg bars of gold, each worth approximately £350,000 ($560,000). Part of these belong to the UK Treasury, representing the nation’s reserves.”

CRAZY PHOTOS FROM EDINBURGH: Business Insider reporter Tomas Hirst is up there with his camera, and it looks as if the country is enjoying one massive party right now.

BRITAIN’S FRONT PAGES: Check out all the rather magnificent front pages of the UK’s major newspapers. Everyone one of them is trying to sway the hearts of the Scots.

TEENAGE BAGPIPERS ATTACKED: The Times found this delicious nugget: “Pro-Union teenage bagpipers outside the rally at Festival Theatre in Edinburgh were told to “f*** off” by Yes voters with megaphones, but continued to play as water bombs were thrown from windows opposite.”

‘YES’ ACTIVISTS HAVE VANDALIZED A POLLING STATION:  This image comes from Jackie Baillie, the member of the Scottish parliament for Dumbarton. The polling station is Jamestown Parish Church Lennox Hall, according to The Telegraph:

scotland flag saltire independence

BLIND ‘NO’ ACTIVIST ALLEGEDLY PUNCHED IN FACE BY ‘YES’ SUPPORTER: Let’s take this with a pinch of salt because it comes from The Mail: The paper is reporting that a blind man with a white cane handing out pro-UK leaflets in Scotland was sucker-punched by a nationalist on Wednesday. “Scottish nationalists mounted a last-minute bullying campaign to intimidate people into voting for independence,” The Mail says. Hmm. (The Mail has been virulently anti-Scottish National Party all along.)

The Mail also says that the BBC has hired private security guards to protect its reporters and editors, who have complained about the hostile atmosphere they’re working in. The nationalists generally believe the BBC is biased against them.

alex salmond daily mailSALMOND THE ‘MAOIST’? To give you the tenor of the Mail’s fair-’n'-balanced coverage, its online front page is hilariously accusing Scottish first minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond of being a former Maoist.

3 KEY DISTRICTS TO WATCH: Everyone is focused on the big cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, which hold 8.7% and 11.5% of all voters, respectively. But as the count goes on, you’ll want to watch North Lancashire, South Lanarkshire and Fife, which hold 6.3%, 6.1%, and 7.1% of voters, respectively. They are also polling districts that are expected to call their results early — by about 3 or 4 a.m. If they go strongly one way or another, it will become very exciting indeed.

DAVID CAMERON IS NERVOUS: The one person who will arguably be most affected by the vote is UK prime minister David Cameron, The Independent says. The loss of Scotland during his administration would be a devastating blow. He’s also committed to holding a UK-wide referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, assuming his Conservative Party can win the next general election in May 2015. But if he can’t hold on to Scotland, there will be an internal effort in the Tory party to get rid of him before the next election.

THERE WILL BE DRUNK PEOPLE: The Telegraph notes something that could be increasingly interesting as the day/night goes on: “Many pubs plan to open all night.”

Tennis champ Andy Murray has revealed that he favors voting “Yes,” hours before the poll.

alex salmond scotlandTV IS BEING CENSORED RIGHT NOW: Britain’s quirky TV broadcasting rules have gone into effect, preventing the major TV channels from commenting on the vote while the voting takes place, lest they influence the result. Here’s the BBC’s confession that until 10 p.m. Thursday it is basically going to be useless:

Strict rules mean the BBC — in common with other broadcasters — is not allowed to report details of campaigning until after the polls close.

So all the news is coming from the web and print outlets. Here’s the relevant news blackout rule from Ofcom:

Discussion and analysis of election and referendum issues must finish when the poll opens. (This refers to the opening of actual polling stations. This rule does not apply to any poll conducted entirely by post.)

Business Insider will, of course, be providing its regular ongoing coverage of the vote.

THE BACK STORY: Opinion polls show the country is evenly split with a narrow lead for the pro-UK “No” vote over the pro-independence “Yes” vote. But the difference is within the margin of error, so it is too close to call.

Friday, the Scots will wake up to a brand new, uncertain future. If the country votes for independence, it will have to face the fact that it has no currency, no central bank, and a chorus of economists who believe the nation will exist on the brink of “failed state” status (that last moniker comes from Glaswegian historian Niall Ferguson). The nationalists, of course, believe the opposite: That government from London has milked the country of its rightful oil revenues and can’t be trusted to maintain proper levels of spending on health, education, and infrastructure.

Or, if Scotland remains part of Great Britain, it will wake up with a giant hangover headache — they’re already partying North of the border — and the sound of the entire world saying “never mind!” And everything will go back to normal.

About 4.3 million, or 97% of the electorate, have registered to vote. The vote has been extended to 16-year-olds, and thousands of teenagers will also be voting as a result. Long lines are expected at polling stations, the Financial Times says:

Scotland has set up 5,579 polling stations, which means typically there will be no more than 800 voters allocated to each polling station, in a bid to avoid any large queues. The polls opened at 7am and will close at 10pm.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TONIGHT: The real fun comes when the polls close Thursday evening at 10 p.m. The final result won’t be known for hours afterward, with individual council areas reporting totals on a rolling basis. Here’s a rough schedule of how that’s likely to happen (below). Note that the crucial halfway point looks as if it’s going to come at about 3 a.m.

scotland vote timetable

SEE ALSO: Less Than 24 Hours Before Scotland’s Historic Vote, People Are Afraid, Frustrated, And Impatient

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